Summary: Kolya has encountered few men he considers worthy of his respect, but Sheppard is one of those few. It is a grudging respect perhaps, mixed with hatred, but respect all the same. Kolya's POV throughout Common Ground.
Spoilers: Major spoilers for all of "Common Ground," references to "The Storm," "The Eye," "Coup D'etat" and "The Brotherhood," and a small nod to the events in "Irresponsible."
Disclaimer: It's not mine, I'm just borrowing the characters for a little while. I promise I'll bring them back soon and -- mostly -- intact. Honest.
A/N: Common Ground is my favorite episode. I have a number of bunnies for it hopping around in my brain, lol. But somehow, after watching Common Ground several times in a row, this one jumped to the top of the pile and demanded to be written.
All recognizable dialogue is from the episode. :)
As always, I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Without Him, I would be totally and utterly lost.
Kolya feels the tension in the grappling line, and pulls back on the snare. The line gives a violent jerk, but the breaking mechanisms serve their purpose, and the sound of a body hitting the forest floor makes him smile. He walks out into the clearing as the gate deactivates, watching as Sheppard slowly pushes himself up from the ground. The Lantean's expression becomes a mix of shock, anger, and resignation when Kolya crouches a few feet away.
"It's good to see you again, Colonel," he greets. The geniality is false, though not entirely so -- knowing that Sheppard will play such an unwilling but vital role in his plans is immensely satisfying.
Sheppard's eyes darken.
The derision in the Lantean's voice makes Kolya smile again. The feeling is mutual. He stands, nodding with approval as his men surround Sheppard, weapons drawn. Sheppard tenses, and Kolya can almost see the possible scenarios playing out in Sheppard's mind. He knows the exact moment that the Colonel comes to the realization that, for the time being at least, cooperation is his only option.
Some of the tension drains away, leaving a wary readiness as Sheppard allows himself to be hauled to his feet. His jaw tightens as Kolya's men begin stripping him of his weapons and field vest, but he doesn't resist. He grunts as his arms are pulled behind him roughly, a rope used to tie his wrists, and he stiffens when a blindfold is placed over his eyes.
Kolya studies him for a moment, not surprised that even bound, the Lantean stands with his chin raised, shoulders squared. Kolya motions to Daros, his Senior Lieutenant, who shoves Sheppard forward. The Colonel stumbles for a few steps then straightens again.
"So," he asks casually, "where we headed?"
Kolya has to shake his head at Sheppard's insolence. The Lantean's attitude is at once both irritating and amusing. But the thought of what is to come, the thought that Ladon will finally pay for his treachery, has put Kolya in a generous mood. Generous enough to humor the Colonel.
"A nearby planet," Kolya answers. "Though I don't intend to stay for long."
"Why, in a hurry?"
"In a manner of speaking. We have several other stops to make before we reach our destination."
Sheppard's expression turns into a grimace as the implication of that statement become clear: Atlantis will not find them easily. He remains silent as the ring activates, and Daros shoves him forward again, the barrel of his gun digging into Sheppard's spine. The unspoken threat doesn't seem to bother the Lantean, but he allows himself to be pushed into the portal without protest. Kolya follows behind them.
Several planets later, Kolya is at last confident that Atlantis will not be able to track their movements through the ring. He enters the address of the decades-old bunker he's used as his headquarters since Ladon's betrayal. It is well-hidden, and few Genii know of its existence.
Sheppard does not speak as they step through the gate a final time, and begin their trek through the forest surrounding the base. Kolya has no doubt that he is memorizing their movements, trying to determine the direction of the ring relative to their position. Kolya has already anticipated it, but the Genii commander respects Sheppard's resourcefulness nonetheless.
Once inside the base, he orders his men to escort Sheppard to the cells. He walks with them through the base's cement corridors, stopping just outside the holding area, trusting his men to see that Sheppard is secure. Sheppard's angry shout follows him down the hallway as he leaves.
"Kolya! I didn't kill you last time, remember?" A crash echoes through the base, punctuating the reminder. "Kolya!"
Kolya simply continues on his way.
"Has Massan reported in yet?" he asks as Daros falls into step beside him.
"Yes, Commander. Ladon left the homeworld a few hours ago, after receiving an urgent message from Atlantis."
Ladon's personal assistant has been most useful. It is almost unfortunate that he will have to be killed when his usefulness comes to an end. Kolya will not welcome a subordinate who has betrayed a commander, even if he has benefited personally from that betrayal. Men whose loyalties prove so fickle can never be trusted.
Wanting to ensure that the preparations are complete, Kolya turns down the corridor that leads to the room he intends to use for his broadcast. When he is satisfied that everything is in place, he orders Daros to retrieve Sheppard once again.
He can't help but feel a rush of anticipation. He's waited a long time to take revenge against Ladon, and he cannot deny that he wants Sheppard to pay for the crimes he's committed against the Genii.
And he will pay. Dearly.
Kolya has watched many men die at the hand of the Wraith over the years, enemies and fellow Genii alike. Many prisoners have needed only to look at the Wraith, see the fate that awaited them, and their courage fled.
Sheppard will not surrender so easily, Kolya knows. But that is largely the reason he's chosen to use Sheppard as a bargaining chip. Sheppard won't bend to his will, but Dr. Weir is a compassionate, sympathetic woman. Her compassionate nature is her weakness. When faced with the choice between watching her military commander die a slow and excruciating death, or betraying a tentative ally whose duplicity has shown itself in the past, Kolya is confident that she will chose the latter.
The sound of footsteps causes Kolya to turn, and he is not surprised to see his men dragging an unconscious Sheppard into the room. He'd ordered that they use extreme caution when handling the Lantean, and if he showed any signs of resistance, they were to do whatever was necessary to gain his compliance, baring lethal force.
Daros bends to lock the restraints they have in place as soon as Sheppard has been deposited in the chair. Sheppard regains consciousness as Daros tightens the bindings on his wrists. He groans, the sound filled with frustration and disgust.
Sheppard's gaze sweeps the room before landing on Kolya. He sighs, his resignation mixed with a hatred he doesn't bother to conceal. His voice is mocking when he speaks.
"You must have really missed me to go to all this trouble. Nice harpoon, by the way."
Kolya merely smiles.
"To capture an extraordinary soldier takes extraordinary measures."
"I'll take that as a compliment."
"As you should, Colonel. Just as you should understand this is not personal." That is not entirely true, but it is true enough -- Sheppard is only a means to an end at this stage, not the prize. "Once my goal is achieved you'll be returned to Atlantis."
"That simple, huh?" Blatant disbelief tinges his words. "What do you want?"
"It's not a question of what I want. It's a question of who."
Sheppard frowns at that, but before he can speak, the camera operator announces that they are ready to broadcast. Ladon, as Cowen's Chief Scientist, had been the one to discover a way to send such a signal through the ring. Kolya cannot help but appreciate the irony.
He motions to Daros, who steps forward to tie a gag over Sheppard's mouth. The Lantean glares, and Kolya can feel his gaze piercing his back as he turns away and walks to the camera.
He gives the cameraman a nod, and the soldier speaks quickly into his radio.
"The ring has been activated, Commander," he says a moment later. A small light flickers to life near the camera's lens, heralding the broadcast.
"Dr. Weir, if you're receiving this, please respond."
Silence answers him.
"I do know you're there, Doctor," Kolya prods. "The existence of Atlantis is no secret among the Genii. It would be pointless not to answer."
A radio finally crackles to life.
"This is Dr. Weir."
Her voice is cold. Kolya smiles.
"Ah, good. I wanted to be certain you were there to see this."
He steps aside, giving those in Atlantis a clear view of Sheppard, bound and gagged in the chair.
"What have you done to him?" an anxious voice demands instantly.
"Nothing whatsoever, Dr. McKay," he assures.
"Let me rephrase that: what are you planning to do?"
"It's quite simple. I'd like to make a trade."
"Before we continue this conversation another second," Dr. Weir interrupts, anger creeping into her tone, "I want to speak with Sheppard."
Kolya glances back at his prisoner.
"Be my guest."
"We'll rephrase that too. We'd like him to be able to speak to us."
Kolya can't help the chuckle that escapes. As grating as Dr. McKay's personality is, he can also be incredibly entertaining.
"Very well," he allows.
He turns, nodding his permission to Daros, who then moves to pull away the gag. Sheppard's reaction is immediate.
"On my command authority, whatever he asks, don't do it!"
Kolya laughs again, finding Sheppard's defiance as amusing as McKay's bluster. Daros roughly forces the gag back in place, muffling Sheppard's growl of protest.
"Well, as you can see," Kolya can't resist adding, "he's his usual, charming self."
Weir, however, is apparently tired of chatter.
"Explain your terms, Kolya."
Kolya pauses, considering how best to approach the situation.
"I have heard the familiar voices of yourself and Dr. McKay," he begins, "but there is one person I know is there who has yet to speak. Ladon Radim is with you, is he not?"
There is a moment of surprised silence.
"Why would Ladon be here?" Weir asks finally, her voice carefully neutral.
"Well, to preserve his precious alliance with you, Doctor," Kolya returns easily, "so that the Genii might remain in the favor of Atlantis. My sources have already confirmed this so there's no point in denying the fact. Turn him over to me, and Colonel Sheppard will be released immediately."
A longer silence follows.
"I'll need time to consider your offer," Weir says at last.
"Allow me to help expedite your decision."
He moves away from the camera, and one of his men opens the doors. The bedraggled Wraith is forced into the room by two of his guards, lowly growling its displeasure.
Kolya watches Sheppard's reaction, noting with satisfaction the horror reflected in his eyes when he sees the Wraith. But, Sheppard does not allow terror to control him; the tightness of his expression and the increased pace of his breathing are the only evidence of his fear.
Kolya is so intent upon observing the Colonel, that he nearly misses Weir's own quiet exclamation of horror. Dr. McKay's response, however, is more difficult to overlook:
"Sheppard could have left you to rot down in that hole when we last met, Kolya. He does not deserve this!"
"Let's be clear, Dr. McKay. No one does."
He hears his men move the Wraith into position, unlocking the metal sheath on its feeding hand. Another of his guards pulls open the collar of Sheppard's shirt.
"Don't do this!" Dr. Weird pleads. "Don't do it!"
"The choice is yours, Dr. Weir. Do we have an arrangement?"
The silence that follows is not entirely unexpected. Apparently a demonstration is necessary.
Kolya nods to Daros once more, and he releases his hold on the Wraith's wrist. After having been denied sustenance for so long, the creature doesn't hesitate. Its hand slams into Sheppard's chest. The Colonel's eyes widen and his back arches, muscles and tendons cording in his neck, obviously in agony.
But he doesn't scream.
"Stop!" Weir is demanding, no longer bothering to hide her desperation and anger. "Stop!"
"Enough," Kolya says after a moment.
His men stun the Wraith, pulling it away. It growls and hisses at them, but it is still too weak to resist as it is lead from the room.
Sheppard is trembling faintly and breathing hard. He looks older, perhaps by a few years. His hair is sprinkled with flecks of gray, fine lines creasing his face, and his eyes are filled with pain when he raises his head. Such a simple effort is enough to exhaust him so soon after the feeding, and his head falls back down to his chest.
Kolya turns to face the camera once again.
"You just crossed a line, Kolya," Weir says lowly, obviously trying to regain her control.
Kolya ignores the implied warning.
"We've found that a minimum of three hours between feeding sessions is crucial to ensure that the body has sufficient time to recover from the trauma," he informs them. "That's the time you have to decide. Three hours."
The connection is cut before Weir can answer. The room falls silent, Sheppard's strained breathing the only sound.
"Return him to his cell," Kolya orders.
The restraints are unlocked, and the gag untied. The Colonel's knees nearly buckle as he is forced to stand, but defiance flares in his gaze when he catches Kolya's stare, and Kolya knows the Lantean is far from broken.
He feels a small pang of regret as Sheppard is lead from the room -- he has encountered few men he considers worthy of his respect, but Sheppard is one of those few. It is a grudging respect perhaps, mixed with hatred, but respect all the same. And while honor is something Kolya has long considered a luxury, and an often foolish one at that, he cannot help but feel that using Sheppard this way is…distasteful. Sheppard may deserve death, but it should be a death befitting a man of his character and ability.
Kolya does not allow the feeling of regret to linger, however. He will do what is necessary, and if he is to have his revenge against Ladon, and take his place as the rightful leader of the Genii, Sheppard's role is key.
In any case, Sheppard's death is not assured. There is yet a chance that Dr. Weir will agree to an exchange, now that she has witnessed the horror of a Wraith feeding for herself.
With that thought in mind, Kolya starts for his quarters. All that remains now is to wait.
Three hours seem to pass rather quickly, and he can't help wondering if Sheppard feels the same. He's lost years in the span of a few moments -- if that doesn't alter one's perception of time, Kolya isn't sure what could. But nevertheless, Kolya finds himself growing impatient as the deadline approaches, enough that he orders Sheppard brought from his cell a few minutes early.
The pain is gone from the Colonel's eyes, but a weariness clings to him still, his movements sluggish, his voice lacking some of its usual exuberance. His gaze is dark and steady, though, and he stares at Kolya without fear.
"I must admit, you've impressed me, Colonel. I was curious to see how you would face such an ordeal, and you've exceeded my expectations."
"I thought you said this wasn't personal."
"The truth is, I would have settled for Dr. McKay. But I doubt I would enjoy his constant wailing."
He can only imagine how McKay would react to a situation such as this. His terrified pleas when Kolya had drawn his knife had only grown louder once the blood had begun flow.
"They're never gonna make the trade, Kolya. Why don't you just finish this?" There is resignation in Sheppard's words, but his steady gaze doesn't falter. Kolya suspects that he's asking for a quick death less for himself and more for those who will be forced to watch as his life is slowly ripped away, so certain is he that his people will not yield.
Kolya's smile grows.
"I think you underestimate the sympathetic nature of Dr. Weir."
"Well, then, you underestimate Elizabeth."
"You prefer that I storm Atlantis and take Ladon by force?" Kolya questions.
A dry chuckle is the answer he receives; Sheppard seems genuinely amused by the suggestion.
"What've you got? Half a dozen men and a starving Wraith? Yeah, you go right ahead."
Kolya's own amusement fades rapidly as he is forced to admit that Sheppard is right. He has a company of nearly thirty men stationed here in this bunker, but that is still far fewer than the number he would need to launch a successful attack against the Ancestral city. And even if he had a sufficient force, there is still the matter of the code necessary to ensure that the gate's iris is lowered. Trying to enter the city without it would only mean a swift end -- as sixty Genii had found when Sheppard himself had activated the shield.
"One way or the other, Ladon is mine," Kolya vows. "Protecting him is a waste of my time and your life."
Sheppard studies him for a moment.
"What'd he do to you?" he asks finally.
"I was the one planning to overthrow Cowen. Laden disclosed those plans, forcing me underground, then staged a coup of his own. He took what was rightfully mine."
Even more grating is the fact that Kolya had never expected such a betrayal -- not from Ladon, who'd never expressed any interest in a position of leadership beyond that which he already held. It was that fact which had persuaded Kolya to share his ambitions with the young scientist…a costly mistake on his part. But while Ladon had played his hand well, he had made a mistake of his own: he'd allowed Kolya to live, instead of killing him when he'd had the opportunity. It is ironic, perhaps, that he and Sheppard have that in common.
Sheppard no doubt regrets it now.
"Bring in the Wraith," Kolya orders.
Sheppard's eyes dart to the door, dread obvious. But he straightens in his seat, as much as his restraints will allow, refusing to react as the gag is tied in place.
The Wraith is brought in once more, the men ready to release it from its chains before the broadcast even begins. Kolya steps in front of the camera as soon as contact with Atlantis is made.
"Dr. Weir. As promised."
"Where's Sheppard?" she demands immediately.
"I'm pleased to see you're wasting no time. So neither will I." He waits for the camera to swivel towards Sheppard and the Wraith. The metal sheath is unlocked, making the Wraith flex its fingers in anticipation. "Will you turn Ladon Radim over to me, in exchange for Colonel Sheppard?"
"Dr. Weir?" he presses.
The answer is almost immediate this time, and Kolya is surprised by it. Perhaps she believes he will not truly carry out his threat -- mistaking his tolerance for reluctance.
"I can only conclude you doubt my sincerity."
Dr. Weir doesn't answer, so Kolya turns to his men, nodding his permission. The Lantean looks up at the creature, staring it in the eye as he had Kolya just moments before. But whatever the Colonel had hoped to convey in the look is lost as the Wraith's hand finds the feeding mark once again, roaring its pleasure.
Sheppard still does not scream.
Kolya purposefully allows this feeding to continue longer than he did the last, and when he finally orders the Wraith away, Sheppard's chest is heaving, and he's trembling violently, working desperately to control the pain. But he isn't broken. The fire in his gaze when he finally lifts his head is proof enough of that.
He looks much older -- his hair almost completely gray, wrinkles deep and numerous. Kolya's lips curve into a smirk. Even if his spirit is not broken, his body most certainly will be.
He turns back to the camera.
"Three hours," he says simply.
The connection is cut, and the Wraith is escorted out first. Sheppard is still seated in the center of the room, his frame shaking. He struggles to look up as Kolya approaches once again.
Pain has a way of showing you the true measure of a man -- it strips away lies, even the ones men tell themselves. The expression on Sheppard's face is raw, wounds laid open for all to see, but beneath that, underlying steel.
No, Sheppard will not break. And perhaps Weir will not either. Perhaps Sheppard was correct and he has underestimated the Lantean leader.
Frustration coursing through him, Kolya motions for his men to take Sheppard. This time the Lantean's knees do buckle when he is released from the chair. He leans heavily on his captors as he is lead away.
Three hours, Kolya thinks. Three hours before Ladon is his or Sheppard is dead.
The three hour window passes as quickly as the previous one, and Sheppard is once again seated in the center of the room, wrists bound at his sides. He had shown Kolya mercy once, but he himself will be shown none. Yet, knowing that, he walked to what is most likely his execution with his head held high, defiant still.
The grudging respect Kolya feels deepens his regret that such a man will have to die such a wasteful death.
"He still has years ahead of him, Dr. Weir," Kolya prompts one last time, hoping to persuade her to choose a different course of action. "My offer stands."
"So does my answer."
"Then, you're effectively ending his life."
She must know that by refusing, she is forcing his hand in this.
"I'm not gonna go there," she answers softly.
So be it, Kolya thinks.
"Is Ladon there?" he asks after a moment.
The sound of Ladon's voice makes Kolya bristle.
"I can't help but wonder what it is you've told them so that they'd choose you over one of their own."
"That I betrayed you, and took for myself what you believe to be yours."
"The truth?" Kolya asks. "I must say, I'm surprised."
"If you release him, you may return to our people with my promise of amnesty."
It is a desperate, empty offer, and it makes Kolya laugh -- if Ladon believes amnesty is what he seeks then he's an even bigger fool than Kolya realized.
"Please, Ladon, I've trained you better than that." His expression darkens. "There are things that cannot be undone."
"That's not true," Weir objects. "You can end this."
"Strange, Doctor, I was just about to say the same thing."
Silence answers his taunt, and Kolya turns to face the Wraith. With his next words, he signs Sheppard's death warrant.
"Take your fill."
The Wraith's hand slams into Sheppard's chest without hesitation, and Sheppard's face contorts in agony beneath the gag, his back arching as the Wraith hisses in satisfaction.
Even as his death rapidly approaches, Sheppard remains silent.
A unintelligible shout of rage carries over the comm, but the rest of the Lantean's are as mute as the Colonel.
Then, just as abruptly as it began, the Wraith pulls its hand away.
"Who told you to stop?" Kolya demands.
The Wraith turns to face him, its yellow, insect-like eyes piercing. "He is near death," the creature says. "Shall I finish him?"
Kolya stares back, confused by the Wraith's suddenly meek behavior. Perhaps it has been a prisoner long enough that its spirit is broken, or perhaps it thinks that it will receive a reward for pleasing its captors. But if it wishes to please him, it's failed. He'd hoped to offer Sheppard as quick a death as he was able under the circumstances. Instead, he has to deal with yet another delay.
Kolya looks at the Wraith with disgust.
"Get it out of here."
The creature doesn't resist as it is lead from the room, and Kolya watches as Sheppard's chin falls to his chest, body shuddering, muscles spasming.
Kolya faces the camera once more.
"Now it's two hours."
The connection is cut immediately, and he turns, ordering his men to take Sheppard as well. The Lantean bears little resembles to the youthful man he was just a few hours before. His features are pale and shriveled, and if it weren't for the tremors still wracking his body, he could be mistaken for dead already. The Colonel doesn't react at all when he is pulled from the chair, and he hangs limply between the guards as he is dragged away.
In two hours, Kolya decides, Sheppard will die, whether or not the Wraith feeds. He will not draw this out any longer, not when he is now sure that he underestimated the Lanteans' resolve. He will not have his revenge against Ladon this way.
The rage that courses through him at that thought must be visible on his face because he can feel Daros watching him warily as he strides from the room. His footsteps echo down the empty hallways as he walks, a sharp, quick cadence in the silence.
Two hours later, Kolya is waiting for his guards to bring Sheppard so that he can make his final transmission to Atlantis. Once Sheppard is dead, Kolya will send his body to an uninhabited planet where the Lanteans can retrieve it. A final gesture of respect.
His radio crackles.
"Commander! Sheppard and the Wraith have escaped!"
Shock makes Kolya freeze for an instant.
Sheppard and the Wraith…
The Wraith's earlier reticence suddenly takes on new meaning. Kolya grips his radio hard enough that his knuckles turn white.
"With me," he barks to Daros, jamming his radio back onto his belt as he storms from the room. His Senior Lieutenant falls into step beside him immediately, gun in hand.
It doesn't take them long to reach the first bodies, not those they are sure to find by the cells, but three men who'd been caught unaware in the corridors. A group of his guards stands over the fallen.
One of the men is laying face down, his neck at an unnatural angle. The other two are covered in blood, various wounds marring their chests. Shell-casings and a blood-covered knife rest nearby.
"They did this together."
There is no doubt in his voice. He's seen too much evidence to believe otherwise. Sheppard has made an alliance with a Wraith, somehow convinced the creature to join him. The very Wraith who'd fed on him three times. Such an outcome had seemed so far removed from the realm of possibility that Kolya hadn't hesitated to put Sheppard in a cell adjoining the Wraith's -- had found it rather amusing, in fact.
"They've taken weapons," Daros announces, bending to examine the bodies.
The ring. Sheppard's first priority will be the ring.
"I want ten armed men at the stargate," Kolya orders. Devoting almost half of his remaining force to that task is perhaps a waste of manpower, but Sheppard has proven in the past how effective he can be even when outnumbered. He will not underestimate Sheppard again. "The rest of you, hunt them down."
He'll be left with only eight men to conduct the search -- were seven of his men not laying dead, he would have organized three teams, but he'll have to make due with two; he will lead one party himself, and Daros will lead the other. It will have to be enough.
His orders are relayed, and Kolya starts down the corridor once again, hearing the men move into position behind him. It is unlikely that Sheppard and the Wraith are in the immediate area, but if they are hiding somewhere nearby, he and his men may be able to flush them out.
Sheppard and the Wraith cannot have gone far. The Wraith will need to feed several times before it regains its strength, and Sheppard is severely weakened himself. Obviously, not nearly as much as it had appeared -- but the physical effects of a feeding cannot be denied. Sheppard has a strong will, but sheer will alone can only sustain a failing body for so long.
There is also the matter of Sheppard and the Wraith's alliance -- an alliance he has unwittingly driven them to. Given the circumstances, Kolya imagines it is tentative. A starved Wraith might not distinguish between friend and foe, and Sheppard might be forced to kill it; the Wraith could also simply decide that it prefers Sheppard as a meal.
Though, perhaps it is wrong to make any assumptions. Sheppard seems to defy all expectations; never has an opponent caused him so much trouble. Kolya is furious that he has allowed himself to be outmaneuvered once again -- bested at his own game. But, even now…part of him enjoys the challenge. He can't help being curious, were they to meet as opponents, equals, no one between them and no agendas, who would prove to be the better man?
Static draws him from his thoughts as his guards report in.
"Our reinforcements have arrived at the stargate, Commander."
Sheppard is most likely listening to every word. One of Sheppard's first acts during the failed Atlantis mission had been to take a radio. Still, it makes little difference.
Sheppard's ultimate goal must be the gate, even if he has another destination in mind for the time being. Kolya knows that absolutely. The gate is the only chance at freedom Sheppard has, and no matter how small a chance it may be, it is one the Lantean will take.
"Kill the Wraith on-sight," he orders in return, "but I want Sheppard alive."
Sheppard will die, Kolya thinks as he steps out of the corridor and into the dark forest surrounding the base. But not yet.
Not until he is certain that when Sheppard dies, it will be at his hands.
"Commander, there is no one around the gate."
The search has been fruitless thus far, and Kolya's patience has worn thin; his grip on the radio tightens, and he hears the case creak.
"Sweep the area again."
"I don't like repeating myself. Question me a second time, and you'll provide the Wraith one last meal before it dies. Sweep the area again."
He doesn't wait for a response, simply replaces the radio on his belt, his eyes scanning the forest as he walks. The days on this world are short, and the nights long, a fact which works in Sheppard's favor. The dense undergrowth also provides ample cover. For the first time since he chose this world as his base of operations, Kolya regrets his decision.
The report he receives next does not improve his mood.
Daros and his team have not been anymore successful; it is as though Sheppard and the Wraith have simply vanished.
They'll have to expand the search area, move deeper into the forest. Dividing their remaining forces now might prove to be disastrous if they are attacked, but at this point, they have little choice.
Kolya stops, and his men halt behind him, tensing. He strains his senses, listening for any sound that might reveal Sheppard's position.
The silence that follows is mocking.
Hours later, Kolya doesn't need the light of day to see that his plan has failed spectacularly.
It had been a calculated risk using Ladon's personal assistant as an agent. Massan's position meant that he could provide valuable intel, but the sensitive nature of that intel meant Ladon would have a very short list of suspects when he became aware of the betrayal.
Kolya had known that it would only be a matter of time until Massan was taken into custody, but he had hoped that the Lanteans would be suspicious of Ladon's motives and keep him in Atlantis, unintentionally hampering his investigation -- Ladon, after all, would want to question the suspects personally, too paranoid to accept the word of his Lieutenants.
But, obviously, the Lanteans had been desperate enough that they'd allowed Ladon to return, and Massan had broken quickly under interrogation. The Lantean ship that had come through the gate is ample evidence of that. Without a doubt, a Genii strike-force will soon follow.
Kolya grits his teeth as he listens to his men report the status of their evacuation -- their retreat.
He'd sent a small group of men back to the base to retrieve their supplies -- food stores and ammunition that cannot be easily replaced. When that is finished, he'll order his guards through the gate as well.
Daros, Kolya notes with a small pang of regret, has yet to respond, which means that he and those with him are most likely dead. He has already lost more than half of his force. He will not waste the lives of his remaining men.
"Kolya, this is Sheppard."
Kolya freezes as Sheppard's voice comes over the radio. It is not aged and weak as he'd expected, but young and strong, and full of hatred.
"Kolya?" Sheppard growls. "I figured you'd run! Next time, I kill you on sight, do you hear me?!"
Kolya stares down at the radio in his hand.
How? How was this possible? Did the Lantean's have a cure for those fed upon by the Wraith? They'd been able to treat the ravaging effects of the disease caused by Cowen's efforts to create a fusion weapon. Ladon's own sister had been saved because of their medicines.
Had they used something similar to save Sheppard? It is possible, even likely. In the end, however, it does not matter how Sheppard is still alive, merely that he is.
Kolya lets his gaze sweep the forest once more, then turns and steps through the gate.
He had wished to find out who would be the better man -- perhaps, the next time they meet, he will.
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