A/N: I'm baack. I'm excited to start posting this fic (my inbox gets so lonely when I'm not getting reviews) although I think it's going to be a bit of a challenge for me. Hope you like this first chap...do you guys know what the word 'cliffee' refers to?...
Disclaimer: I shall not repeat: I only play with the characters, I must return them to their rightful owners (SciFi and the like) at the end of the day. Now, what condition they're in when they get there...that's another story entirely...
Another trading mission. Another diplomatic 'first contact' encounter. Another series of boring meetings.
Ronon preferred gate travel to sitting around Atlantis, but he couldn't help but wish sometimes that something would happen. That wasn't to say that his team didn't run into more than their fair share of 'action', which Rodney would happily attest to. It was just the long, monotonous periods in-between that got to the ex-Runner like itching powder in the bed sheets.
Ronon didn't look up when he become aware of Rodney's voice again. Instead choosing to continue scanning the immediate area for the slightest hint of danger, keeping his hand resting on his blaster as he did so.
"No discernible power readings, no sign of even reasonably advanced technology or machinery of any kind. I mean, their houses are made out of mud for crying out loud. And whatever they are cooking makes Monday Meatloaf Surprise seem like heaven in a bowl." Rodney grumbled loudly from the middle of their group, his P90 hanging overly casually from his tac vest as he studied his life signs detector irritably.
Ronon rolled his eyes. The scientist was always complaining about never coming upon a planet with inhabitants that didn't want to 'kill, kidnap, torture or eat them'. But for reasons as of yet not understood by the rest of the team, his complaining was just as loud, if not louder, now on this decidedly benign planet, as it was on all those other categorically hostile ones.
Immediately to Rodney's left Teyla walked, looking slightly amused as always at Rodney's constant chatter. But the strained smile on her face told anyone observant enough to notice that even her patience was wearing thin.
Sheppard trudged at the front of their small group, warily sighing when Rodney's complaining grumbles turned to something closer to petulant whining about being hungry because 'his blood sugar must be getting low'.
"Rodney, do us all a favor and have a power bar."
"Why would that be a favor to you?"
"Because I'm hoping that with food in your mouth you're less likely to keep talking."
A disbelieving grunt from Ronon accompanied Rodney's sarcastic, "cute."
A three click hike from the gate, after passing through a few small gatherings of mud houses and cautious inhabitants, clusters so small they couldn't even accurately be called villages, the team found the town they'd been searching for. The small mud houses with thatcher roofs gave way to more substantial ones made of stone and wood. Through the center of town there was a thriving marketplace filled with traders, everything from cloth and tools to vegetables and meat. And, much to Rodney's delight, the people in the town seemed to know their way around a cooking fire, because the smells emanating from some of the small bakeries and meatpackers was nothing short of mouth watering.
"All right looks like the pub is this way," John said after a moment of surveying the crowd. He sensed nothing hostile or out of the ordinary and a quick glance at Ronon, though his hand was still perched at his weapon, told him the big man felt the same.
"Why is that always the first place we stop?" Rodney asked, his voice dangerously close to whining. The foursome weaved their way through the crowd toward the tavern. Ronon rolled his eyes when Rodney's gaze lingered on booths with vegetables and fresh baked bread as they past.
"Because in a place like this, Rodney, it is often the best place to start when you are looking to make contacts," Teyla explained patiently, smiling congenially at the unfamiliar faces they were surrounded by.
Ronon only half listened when they entered the pub, which was really not at all unlike the dozens of taverns they'd visited on dozens of other worlds. The usual pleasantries were exchanged and they were led to a table in the middle of the tavern, where the keeper, who apparently was also a member of the leadership council on their planet, had them all brought food and they set about negotiating. The same cautious questions and vague answers were exchanged. Trade proposals and bargaining all carried out to the letter of tedium.
But his rapidly waning interest was finally piqued when Ronon heard the conversation turn to himself.
"You're friend there, he Satedan?"
Ronon looked over and noticed for the first time the tavern keeper had hardly eight teeth in his mouth. Sheppard glanced back over at him but Ronon leaned forward, choosing to answer for himself.
"That depends on who's asking," he said, his hand, which had been tucked casually into the beltloop of his pants, subconsciously fell back to the hilt of his blaster.
The man squinted cloudy gray eyes and nodded, "You are Satedan. I recognize the clan tattoo. Dex." He rubbed a pudgy hand against his bloated neck on the spot that coincided with Ronon's tattoo. He tilted his head to the left, "I think there's some friends of yours lookin' for ya'."
Ronon's expression remained neutral and he met eyes briefly with Sheppard before standing and moving off in the direction the man indicated.
The tavern was L-shaped, the shorter end extending back behind the actual bar area into a slightly darker place where the smoke pooled in the air and the smell of alcohol was near overpowering.
Ronon pushed aside the tattered curtain that separated the small back room from the rest of the bar, fighting back apprehension that bubbled in his stomach. After Tyre and the others, he couldn't seem to shake the feeling that if there were Satedans nearby, he'd be doing himself a favor to run in the opposite direction.
There were just under a dozen people in the tiny room, and he scanned all their faces quickly. He didn't recognize a single one. That would have been enough in itself to send him back out into the main room looking for orders to return to the gate, even if he hadn't known who they really were.
And he knew, he immediately recognized the clothing of Quari Traders from one too many 'business' transactions over the years.
He turned on his heel to leave, but was stopped by the low, powerful voice of one of the men in the room.
Ronon spun back around and raised his blaster in one motion, but stopped himself from firing when Sheppard stepped forward, his hands tensing on his own weapon while at the same time staying Ronon's.
"What is it?"
"They know my name," he said simply, in his experience that was reason enough to kill a strange man.
Sheppard shrugged in faked nonchalance, "I thought the tavern keeper said they were friends of yours."
Teyla and Rodney pulled up beside them but Ronon took no notice.
"They're no friends of mine," he growled, glaring daggers at the man before them, "They're Quari."
Out of the corner of his eye Rodney saw Teyla glower and the expression made him shudder.
"Teyla?" John's unspoken question told Rodney he'd seen the look as well.
"A race of traders, unfair one's I might add. They are in everything from black market merchandise to slave trade and are not above harming those who do not wish to trade in a manner they deem fair," she explained shortly, raising her own weapon to have the men in her sights.
The man who'd first spoken smiled congenially. "I see my reputation precedes me."
"Give me one good reason not to kill you where you sit." Ronon said, resisting the urge to switch his blaster setting from 'stun' to 'kill'.
The man raised an eyebrow so high it nearly touched his thinning black hair. He seemed unconcerned with being in the sights of arguably one of the best shots in Pegasus, and sipped his steaming drink slowly before answering.
"Because if you did, it would not matter. There would be three more to take my place," he gestured around the room at three other similarly dressed men.
Sheppard stepped in before Ronon could fire, fearing the Quari's reason would not be good enough for the Satedan.
"It seems we've been misdirected, sorry about the intrusion. We'll just be on our way."
"I'm afraid I can't allow that, Good Sir," a bad feeling that had been rumbling low in Sheppard's stomach suddenly flared up to full force, "I didn't go through all the trouble of getting you here just so you could leave."
"Why did you then?" Sheppard turned back around, eyeing the man and his companions warily.
He sneered and it made Ronon's urge to kill someone only more pronounced.
"Business," was the man's only answer.
But his warning came seconds too late as the four 'Lanteans watched helplessly as their world faded to black.