"Colonel Carter will understand. I must speak with her," 'Beloved' said.
Then, more softly, "Please, we need her help."
Chapter 45: Promise
Sam sat across a small informal lunch table from an alien she'd been taught to fear and mistrust. Beloved, the Wraith Queen, sat watching her carefully, alert for the slightest reaction. Whatever happened, the petitioning royal was ready to ask for what she needed and grateful Sam had agreed to see her in the first place.
Initially she'd wanted to decline the unexpected invitation. Woolsey had summoned her to the briefing room earlier that morning, shortly after the Wraith's arrival. He wasn't pleased, that much was clear. And as he talked, Sam could tell he had more on his mind than the questionable motives of the Wraith. He was upset she'd asked for Sam Carter.
Professional jealousy was something foreign to Sam, probably because she seldom had anything to envy. Still she had been on the receiving end on more than one occasion. And this was one of those times. Though Richard Woolsey was realistic about his shortcomings, he wanted to continue as leader of Atlantis. Sam's affirmative statement that she planned to get her job back had been less than welcome. So when Beloved passed him over in favor of speaking with Sam, his nose was out of joint. To his credit, he'd moved past the feeling and reached out to the woman Beloved wanted to see.
For her part, Sam hadn't exactly jumped at the chance to meet with the new Wraith visitor. After all, the Queen had selected her as the subject of Oscar's little experiment. Still, in spite of her natural misgivings, Sam was unable to resist hearing what Beloved had to say. And after her recent discussion with Oscar, she was ready to give the Queen the benefit of the doubt. Maybe, there was hope for something beside all out war between their species.
"You hide your fear well," Beloved said, breaking the silence between them. "I respect that."
Sam drew herself up sharply. She was afraid. Though sitting tall in her chair, her face set like flint, with no sign of a tremor in her hands, she was afraid.
"You have no reason to fear me, Samantha," Beloved said. "See, I am in chains," she went on, raising her hands above the table to allow Sam to see the shackles. "See what your people have done to me. It doesn't matter. Even unchained I would not choose to harm you. You are too important to us. You understand in a way the others can't."
"Understand? You mean about feeding, the compulsion to feed," Sam correctly deduced.
"Yes, that is what I mean," Beloved replied, her voice soft and gentle, not at all the rasping challenge so familiar to Sam when she thought of Wraith. "You of the all humans understand the torment of my people."
"How will that help you?" Sam asked. "I'm told your hive will soon be under attack by other Wraith. How will my understanding help?"
Beloved made as if to get up from the table. She'd forgotten how she'd been bound to the seat before Sam was brought in. Huffing briefly in frustrated disgust, she settled in once more and began.
"I have a story to tell you, Samantha," she said. "Will you listen?"
"Of course," Sam replied. "That's why I'm here."
"You know that females are rare among my people?"
"Yes," Sam affirmed. "As far as I know the only female Wraith we've met have been queens. Except for a young girl who'd been raised by a human, all the rest have been male."
"I remember that Wraithling," Beloved said. "It is a story told among my hive. Ellia, she would have died had she not been found by that human. It was an act of great bravery on his part, bravery and sacrifice. I am told Ellia eventually fed upon him and others."
"Yes that was before…"
"Before she took your retrovirus..."
"Yes, an early version of what Dr. Beckett was working on."
"It rapidly changed her, wiped up the human parts of her being."
"Yes, unfortunately it did," Sam admitted, her dismay showing as she recalled the horrific report she'd read on that incident.
"I am able to accept that, Samantha. Your people did intend to harm Ellia," Beloved said. "She would have faired far worse had my people found her; she would have been destroyed. The only females allowed to live past their change are the queens."
"The age where they begin to require human sustenance," Beloved clarified.
"Of course," Sam said, "the Wraith begin life able to metabolize traditional foods. But why kill the females?"
"They are not needed," she said. "Many years ago, they became more trouble than they were worth.
Beloved witnessed the expected outrage on Sam's face. She'd known this woman would react in such a fashion to the injustice of her cold, matter of fact statement.
"What are you talking about?" Sam protested. "They are part of your people."
"But not valued, not needed," Beloved replied. "Ever since our blending with the Xioney, or the Iratus bug as you call them, the females have dwindled in importance and desirability. They are no longer needed to propagate the species and their sensibilities caused the Wraith to question who we were becoming."
"You're female," Sam protested. "I don't understand."
"I was selected," Beloved replied, "bred for my role as queen. In that way, my training, my perceptions, my beliefs were shaped from the moment of my emergence, my birth as it were."
"Then why are we talking? If you've been bred to accept what is, why are you here? What do you want from us, from me?"
"Experience, as well as breeding, shapes who we all are, Samantha," Beloved stated truthfully. "I was born to the Hive of the Testament. Mine is the Hive dedicated to preserving Llocha-re's thoughts and dreams. More than many of the others, I became enchanted with her words as soon as I could read on my own. I have used my considerable influence in the Hive to be sure others did as well."
"I noticed you did not ask how my actions and the actions of my Hive continued to be ruthless and bloodthirsty in spite of our devotion to Llocha-re," Beloved observed meaningfully. She truly needed no response. She simply needed Sam to know she knew.
It was Sam's turn to nod in agreement. She did understand. She understood how one person, faced with starvation and an imperious genetic command to feed might override the ethics, training and beliefs of a lifetime. If, as it had been with the Wraith, all of that person's supports confirmed and participated in the same heinous behavior, the despicable acts that resulted were predictable.
"What are you hoping to do?" Sam asked.
"Convince my people that there is another way available to them," Beloved said. Her voice was surprisingly low and warm. "Many yearn for the life described by Llocha-re, the life she lived before the Xioney. It was a life where we were not afraid of who we were, not afraid to be different, to have families and to love."
"Now, there is no such thing as family as we once knew it," Beloved said. "And love is seldom if ever found.
"But enough of this," the Queen said, realizing her time was running short and she needed to make her needs clear to this one. "We had hoped to wait until your people and ours had successfully developed a cure for the feeding. Oscar had done his best to insure he would be the first to experience the desired reversion. And when he did, he would show himself to our people. He would be a triumph, still Wraith in everyway, but freed of the compulsion to feed on those who were our ancestors."
"He's not there yet, is he?" Sam said. She realized Jennifer had yet to administer the final calculated dose of human stem cells.
"No, he isn't," Beloved replied after a brief delay where she appeared deep in thought, her mind reaching out to Oscar's now they were in such close proximity. "And even should your doctor's approach be totally successful, it would still leave my people dependant on yours for the necessary materials. That would not be acceptable."
"The stem cells?"
"We believe it will be possible to develop a reasonable alternative, one which would allow the use of synthetic materials the Wraith can produce without human assistance," Sam volunteered.
"Good," the Queen replied, "I hadn't heard that. There is much to be completed before we are ready to take this to everyone. Yet the timing is no longer mine to decide."
"That's where Michael comes in," Sam voiced her assumption.
"Exactly," Beloved said. "Michael was once part of our Hive. After he was converted by your Dr. Beckett, I am sad to say, we no longer welcomed his presence among us. From then on he began to hate us almost as much as he hated all of you. Or so we thought.
"It seems Michael still values his Wraith heritage and will do anything he can to preserve it in some form. When he heard we were working with the humans on a cure, he became agitated, distraught even."
"But if Michael is of your Hive, he'd be familiar with Llocha-re's writings, wouldn't he?"
"Of course," Beloved responded. "And so you wonder why he would not support finding a cure."
"Yes, exactly," Sam said. "I'd think he'd want us to succeed as much as you."
"Before his time on Atlantis, that would have been true," the Queen replied. "Now everything is different. Any attempt to find a cure working with the humans is suspect. He's determined to find his own answers, to develop his own race of Wraith, a hybrid race of creatures, creatures who will be free to take his revenge.
"Michael has spoken with me over subspace channels several times since he learned of our plans," Beloved continued. "Yet he refuses to meet with me face to face. He no longer trusts anything I have to say. He is convinced I am working with you to wipe out the Wraith, to make Wraith all human once again, as you did with him. If he must destroy Atlantis and my Hive to prevent that from happening, then that is what he will do."
"At the risk of sounding terribly self centered, where do I come in?" Sam asked.
"You will work with me to show him I speak the truth, that we have no intention of purging other Wraith characteristics from our genome."
"Why would he believe me?"
"Because of what you have suffered at our hands," the Wraith answered. "Because of what we did to you, he will know you understand. There will be a connection. I believe he will listen."
"Why should he even believe that was true? For all intents and purposes, I'm back to normal now. I don't want to feed, I'm not Wraith."
"But you still have the mark."
Sam sat silently and took in Beloved's words. It was true, she still carried the mark. The feeding aperture was still there, reminding her of what had happened, of what she had become. Jennifer assured her it was no longer functional, but also told her most likely it would never fully disappear.
"The aperture, Michael will see it and know you understand."
Sam took a deep breath, doing her best to calm her warring emotions. She was still uncertain what this alien female wanted from her. Wouldn't it be better to give them the vaccine and simply send them on their way, she thought. Why continue to be involved with them at all? Still if she could help make this a success, it would be a major coup for humans as well as Wraith and the beginning of a formidable alliance.
Beloved looked at her expectantly.
"I'll need to talk with others," Sam said.
"Yes, I value his opinions, his experience," Sam said. "I'll speak with others as well."
Beloved appeared genuinely puzzled.
"Yet you are the one who truly understands," she protested. "What have they to say to you?"
Sam laughed ironically.
"A lot actually," she said. "We work as a team here. It prevents us from going off on impulse, on emotion. I've done that before, followed my own way when I was certain I was the only one who understood the situation."
Sam's mind replayed the disaster that was her involvement with Replicarter.
"I won't do things that way again," Sam said. "I've learned."
"Alright, I'll wait," Beloved replied, "but time is limited. Michael is preparing a "cure" of his own, one that will destroy us both. If he wins over the others before we do, our dreams of peaceful coexistence will be over."
"I'll do what I can to bring that peace. I promise, I will," Sam said. "But I'll need time to decide how to go about it. I hope you're willing to give me that time."
"Then we'll be talking again," Sam said simply. With that she stood up and left the room, ready to do what came next.
She didn't know what would happen, what decisions would be made. She wasn't sure where she'd end up, what she'd be doing in the next few days, let alone the next few months. She did know she had to talk with Jack. She did know it was unlikely she'd be taking back her old job. And she had a feeling she'd be getting to know the Wraith even better than she did now.
The adventure was only beginning.
Thanks to all who've read this story, sticking with it through 45 chapters!
And special thanks to all of you who've reviewed along the way. Your encouragement made all the difference.
Please watch for Part 2: Promises to Keep. It will be posted on the SGA page of fanfiction net. It will follow Sam's adventures as she keeps her promise to Beloved. Never fear, Jack and other SG1 characters will appear as well.