Episode Four- Veritas- Chapter One

Chapter One

Morning light always saturated this particular room in Atlantis, it was because of the one large window taking up half of one of the odd shaped room’s walls.  The Expedition’s training room is one of the most used in the entire city.  Its floor is the shiniest of all those in the city, its rust-colored marble much deeper a hue than any other, practically brown.  And instead of being bisected by two-inch wide strips of silver to form geometric shapes all over the floor, it’s bisected by strips of the same rust-colored marble that’s every place else in the city, lighter than the brown.  To one side of the room are a short flight of stairs that lead to a balcony area that the Expedition kept eternally blocked off by a gridded screen of thin white plastic so nimble it acted like a curtain.  The ‘chiclet’ floor to ceiling wall sconces line the walls every three inches or so, practically covering every inch of the walls.  At some points the sconces are side by side, not a speck of wall to be seen between them.  The large window doesn’t have a Frank Lloyd Wright-like design the way the others do in Atlantis, it’s has the same autumnal colors but it’s design is reminiscent of that of a piano’s keyboard.  Its door is one of the few in Atlantis that is all glass and is one of the most ornately designed of the stained glass in the city.  Again a Frank Lloyd Wright-ish design but with a brilliant tapestry of a rainbow’s worth of colors.  It’s a nice contrast to the walls themselves, the walls being turquoise and their moldings and trims being a copper color like the rest of the city’s walls.  On usual days the textured and copper-colored bench underneath the sole window is covered by gym duffel bags or white towels or squeeze water bottles for drinking or any other items found in a gym when someone or someones are working out, today the bench is empty…but the room is not.

The clacks of the weaponry connecting are familiar in this area although the sparring pair is not.  Lieutenant-Colonel John Sheppard drops one of his knees low to the floor making a fluid low blow that Lieutenant Ursula Kenmore just as fluidly blocks without lowering either of her knees, let alone bending either of them.  John glances up at her for a moment before returning his eyes to the path of the black and white, ornately carved wooden bantos rods in her hands.  Even though he knows not to, that it’s a serious tactical flaw, he has been intentionally avoiding her eyes.  Although she keeps hers very intently trained on his.  It is disconcerting…her eyes are disconcerting.  They’re intense.  And worse yet, she’s good at this.

John parries her, breaking their bantos rods connection once more and allowing the two soldiers to slowly circle each other once again.  John spins one of his twenty-eight-inch long rods in his hand, up beside his shoulder blade, and the other he keeps steady and at the ready.  Kenmore simply eyes him.  Both rods in what Teyla Emmagan, Atlantis’ resident expert on this sort of fighting, would have informed her was insufficient to either properly defend herself from attack let alone launch one of her own, but which Kenmore was proving would be the wrong conclusion.

John watches the floor ahead of him as he walks his circular path.  She’s waiting.  Another hard part for him.  Kenmore was making him pitch most of the attacks to her.  They had walked this circle for twenty minutes before John finally got so fed up with the lack of competition that he lunged at her with a strike to the midriff.  Which she blocked easily and made a strike to his head that he barely managed to block in time himself.  Now he’s regretting this.  He had originally meant this to be a test to let him see her skill level and also to teach her a bit of a lesson, him thinking he was going to be better at this than he thought she was going to be.

CLACK!—but he’s wrong.  It’s going on an hour and a half now and he is wrong.  CLACK!…CLACK!  CLACK!  CLACK!—Dammit, John thought he had her that time but her wrists moved practicedly and fluidly and made it look like her rods simply bounced off his and moved quickly to counter the other attacks he was leveling at various parts of her body.

This isn’t fair.  She isn’t supposed to know this crap…And she didn’t.  John knows that.  Her posture is all wrong for this and half the time she isn’t even holding onto the rods right, something Teyla had beaten out of John numerous times their first few sparring sessions together, basically was their first few sparring sessions together.  But Kenmore’s blocking every move he makes which is leaving him trying to remember some of the more complicated moves Teyla had taught him over the years…and a few he’d picked up from Ronon over the years as well.

CLACK!…CLACK!  CLACK!…CLACK!  CLACK!  CLACK!  Nope, she still managed to cut off his every attack…CLACK!  CLACK!  She parries, turning away from him, and letting her arm fluidly continue the turn and make a blind strike at his head.  He blocks as the rest of her body finally completes the turn with a strike aimed at his knees.  He blocks that one too, she lets her rod bounce off his and swing sideways still aimed at the same area of his knees just coming at them from the other side.  He lowers himself to block her new attack and she swings her other rod back around.  He just catches sight of it coming out of the corner of his eye.  John swings up and over his free rod, but it’s just a hair too late.  His rod blocks the blow for the most part, but his block is a little choked and the one-inch diameter tip of her rod extends beyond the stop.  It taps against his cheek.  The blow is gentle.  But it still stings like hell.  Like a pinprick.

John feels his anger spike as Kenmore maintains the same cool composure she’s kept the entire time as she backs away from him.  Retreating to the radius of the invisible circular path they’ve established between each other and letting John get up and stew in let alone the pain of his most likely now bruised cheek but also the pain of his definitely bruised ego.

This is not going as he’d planned.  John knows that it’s going to bruise and he won’t have to wait till the morning probably to see it.  He remembered when Teyla had made a spinning strike behind her aimed at the back of his knees, John had dipped and tried to dodge the blow but ultimately failed, and Teyla ended up slapping him across the butt with one of her rods.  It had been John’s fault and he suffered through the humiliation and embarrassment of the Expedition’s then Chief Medical Officer Doctor Carson Beckett handing him a soft cushy doughnut to sit on for a few weeks.  Bright ass—bright pink no less.  Pepto-Bismol.  Bubble gum.

And that’s another thing ratcheting up his irritation and humiliation.  He knows these things being used at full force and full velocity can break—shatter—someone’s cheek bone with a hit like that, blocked as half-assed as it had been.  But all he’s getting out of this is a bruise.  She’s taking it easy on him and he knows it.  God dammit, he knows it.

John spins one of his bantos rods loosely in his hand, loosening up his wrist.  Then this buzzing sound comes to his ear.  He’d heard it before when they first got in here.  He had handed the Lieutenant a pair of bantos rods and told her what they were called, to which she had said “Sticks, got it.”  He’d repeated their name and she had stared at him and said again, only more slowly, “Sticks, got it.”  John had stared at her, she’d stared back complete with an array of facial expressions that made it clear that she could care less what they were accurately called and he would be in a losing battle over this.  John had given up with a frustrated sigh and turned his back on her…then he heard the buzz sound and turned back to look at her.  He didn’t need to glance over at Kenmore now to see her spinning one of her rods so fast it reminded him of the spinning boomerang scene in the second Crocodile Dundee movie.  She even has the same pacing in her spins as Dundee had.  A fast buzz for a few spins then slower for a few spins then fast again then slower again then fast.  It should have been John’s first clue that this was not going to go his way.  Was John’s first clue.

He lunges across to her, making an irritated more than calculated swing at her head.  She really doesn’t even have to move to block it, but she does.  CLACK!  John retreats and she lets him go.

Okay that didn’t help his temper any.  Okay, last chance.  John works his rods around, loosening up his wrists even further.  He’s going to need the flexibility to try this next move.  It’s usually a hand-to-hand exchange Teyla taught people, a technique specifically meant to be used to dodge a Wraith feeding attack.  In fact, it’s a linked chain of movements she had taught Wraith Hybrid Michael at the end of which Ronon walked in on Michael finally getting it right and pinning Teyla to the ground resulting in Ronon throwing Michael up against the far wall by Michael’s throat.  John takes a shallow breath…blows it out…and goes for it.

CLACK!…CLACK!  CLACK!  CLACK!…CLACK!  CLACK!…CLACK!  Kenmore easily slides under John’s finally blow, again successfully blocked by her, and draws her free stick with her.  Dragging it across his gut then sliding the other rod over during his moment of stall and bringing the ornately carved white and black wood up against his throat.  Out of breath and his knees halfway to the floor, his eyes look up at her…

“Evisceration, decapitation.  Instant kills.  Point one and two for me.  Reset.  Go.”

Her breathing is measured and she’s still calm.  Her eyes still intent.  Focused on his eyes.  Damn.

The door to the room opens behind her and Ronon walks in.  His reaction to the moment is instantaneous.  Just as it had been with Michael and Teyla.  Before Sheppard can say anything, the Satedan’s face contorts in seething rage and he literally makes a running lunge at Kenmore’s back.  Like she has second sight, the Lieutenant turns towards the Satedan, bringing one of her sticks with her.  John hears the distinct crack of bone as the bantos rod shatters against Ronon’s wrist.  Ronon brings up his free wrist with a roar and it makes a glancing connection with Kenmore’s nose.  She brings to bare her other stick with a roar of her own to the side of his knee.  The stick shatters.  Left with nothing else.  The melee quickly descends to a clash before John can even straighten up.

Kenmore lets the top of her body fall back as Ronon cocks his injured fist back.  She bends backward, plants her hands back on the floor on either side of her head, and flings the rest of her body out to follow.  She has definitely done that before.  Her boots come together and kick up.  Ronon expertly flings his head back, avoiding her boot’s upward movement.  But quicker still, the rest of her body solidly recoils against her firmly planted top half and springs back out, propelling her whole body off the floor.  Her feet plant back on the ground, the rest of her body lowers down into a squat, and starts to come back up as Ronon’s head starts to come back down.  Almost before he can realize it, John sees that one of her fists is slightly trailing the other but coming up on its twin fast.  His eyes go wide and he yells…

“Ronon!”

Kenmore’s faster moving fist slams into Ronon’s downward coming jaw using both her upward velocity and the gravity of Ronon’s head coming back to its normal position to let the deft uppercut sink in.  She’s not holding back anymore.  John hears a distinct pop.  Ronon’s head flies back as Kenmore’s fist continues its upward trajectory.  As Ronon staggers back, John plunges into the fray but Kenmore, once again it’s like she’s got second sight, knows he’s coming at her back.  She turns her head, reaches out, and kicks.  She grabs the rod John had tried to swing at her as John’s gut slams into her boot.  He staggers back.  Leaving the stick in her hand.  She crouches down waiting for his next move.  Ronon’s recovered though.  He comes in with his signature finishing move.  The dreadlocked juggernaught jumps into the air.  Cocks back his fist in mid-air as he comes up on Kenmore.  She looks back up at him.

She turns as he comes down.  Her fist wrapped around John’s bantos rod goes up to meet Ronon’s fist coming down.  Her fist is simply guiding his own fist down though, carefully avoiding herself as her body still rises up to meet the rest of him.  John notices one leg comes up with her and disappears into the shadows between the two combatants.  Ronon comes down against Kenmore as her knee comes up and crunches horribly into his groin.  The Satedan’s eyes bulge.  There’s silence.  John stares at Ronon’s face, clear over Kenmore’s shoulder.  His prone fist extended far beyond her other side.  It’s like his friend’s frozen in time.

Slowly Kenmore lowers her leg back to the floor.  She reaches in between her and Ronon with her free hand and slowly pushes him back.  He moves as one whole frozen unit away from her and falls back on the ground.  John’s astonished at the sight of Ronon Dex curled up on the floor of the training room with his uninjured hand between his legs.  Kenmore stares down at the Satedan.  Then with a wrathful roar, she lifts up her arm with the bantos rod still in her hand.  John sees light reflect off the exposed bottom inch-diameter of the weapon.  He yells as she starts to come down…

“Kenmore!”

The door opens again for a couple of soldiers, Doctor Rodney McKay, Teyla, and Major Evan Lorne…

“Jaffa kree,” Lorne orders loudly.

With barely an inch separating the tip of Ronon’s nose from the sharp edge of the bantos rod, Kenmore immediately angles her descent and turns the weapon away.  After three tight, fast spins away from Ronon, she comes to stop facing towards Sheppard.  Her head is down, she’s kneeling, and the fist and weapon are prone before her and land on the ground in utterless silence.

Only now do the signs of her physical exertions show themselves, she’s panting and her hairline is only now starting to dampen with the first indications of sweat.  Her hand slowly releases the stick to the floor and leaves it there like a peaceable offering.  Slowly she comes up off her knee and stands straight.  A solid elegant movement.  Her head comes up and she looks back at Lorne and the others’ shocked faces.  Still intent, still calm.  Evan nods at her.  She tilts her head slightly and nods back.  Wait, John knows that movement, recognizes it…

“Teal’c taught you, didn’t he,” Sheppard finally asks.

Kenmore looks over at him, “You know any other Jaffa?”

Sheppard doesn’t respond.

“Yes,” she answers, “as well as Master Bra’tac, but they didn’t teach me everything they knew.  That last one was actually something I picked up and tweaked a little from an Animé I used to watch.”

Sheppard comes out of his braced stance as Kenmore looks over at Ronon while the other soldiers try to administer the beginnings of medical attention to him.  But Ronon growls them away.

“What happened,” Lorne asks, “We received reports of yelling.”

Sheppard comes up to Kenmore’s side and the two walk within a step or two of Ronon.

“Kenmore and I were sparring.  Ronon came in at a bad moment.”

Teyla stares slack jawed and Rodney’s eyes are bulging at the sight more than Ronon’s eyes were in pain.  They’re all trying to spare what’s left of their friend’s dignity by not actually looking at him, even the other soldiers are too.  Although John figures that had more to do with that they didn’t want Ronon to hunt them down and kill them later rather than any actual bonds of friendship.  But Kenmore holds no such regard as she stares down at Ronon.  Suddenly she points at the prone man.

“He’s twitching,” she looks over at Sheppard, “Does that mean I can go now?”

Sheppard begrudgingly nods.  Kenmore shrugs it off.

“Okay,” she says.

The Lieutenant walks out past Teyla and turns out of sight down the right hand corridor.  Sheppard looks to the two spare soldiers, they catch his eye, and he nods at them.  They nod back, get off their knees, and head down the corridor after Kenmore.  After a moment the remaining group hear her exasperated voice coming from down the corridor…

Oh my God!  Seriously!  I do not need an armed escort!  I’m not going to hurt anyone!  I don’t have any of those stick thingies anymore!”

John lets the disruption pass away into silence.

“Oh my God,” Rodney finally sputters.

“Let it go Rodney,” John warns.

“Let it go,” McKay exclaims, “She just took out Ronan the Barbarian.”  He gestures down at Ronon still crumpled in the fetal position and starting to shake on the floor.

“She didn’t take me down,” the Satedan gets out awkwardly and with a slush.  His eyes focusing on a distance somewhere in front of his eyes.

“Oh no?  She just walked out of here basically without a scratch on her and you’re lying on the floor clutching what’s left of your manhood.”

Oh great, Sheppard lowers his head and covers his eyes with his hand, as if Ronon wasn’t going to be pissed off enough he got his butt kicked by Kenmore, but now Rodney had pointed it out in front of others.  Gees Rodney, really?  While he’s down on the ground?

“She didn’t take me down,” Ronon repeats.  His deep voice cracking a little like a lisping boy going through puberty.

John now closes his eyes while they’re hidden under his hand, like the man’s voice cracking isn’t proving Rodney’s point even more.

Ronon continues to stare off straight ahead of him, focusing his anger.

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