The SGC personnel rush for the door that Keltoi and the Elders are lying in front of. Daniel and Kenmore stop beside U’dana and Keltoi. Seeing if they’re okay.
“Keltoi, get the Elders to safety.” Daniel orders.
“No! Keltoi, get to the armory,” U’dana demands. Her strong voice giving absolutely no hint of her age.
The Elders and Keltoi instantly get to their feet before the Stargate group can help them up, fling open the door, and rush out into the dark. The gawking soldiers can see the villagers through the open doorway. Running around. Scattering. Without hesitation, and full of admiration for the older broads and the mousy man, the SGC get to their feet and charge out after them.
It’s utter chaos outside. What had been a peaceful and laboring village has been turned into a battle zone. More than just the meeting hall’s roof has been destroyed by whatever the flying creatures are, the things look like solid black mutant flying monkeys. Dozens of them swarm the featureless night sky, using the scarce aerial visibility to attack buildings, weaponry, and people alike. As it turns out, the people are, yes, running around, scattering, but it’s organized chaos and they aren’t screaming out of fear. Many of them are wielding weapons. Roaring as they charge against ground invaders as well as defending themselves against the sky ones.
Ground invaders. Black figures. Humanoid. They’re charging over the crest of the hillside facing the mountain, the same hillside that Kenmore and Sheppard had been sitting on minutes ago. The figures are armed with all sorts of things. Axes. Swords. Shields. Knives. Their fists. The villagers and the invaders and their monsters are clashing everywhere the group can see. The gate personnel start opening fire on what seems to be their easiest and most helpful to get rid of targets: the monsters in the sky.
“What the hell are those things,” Colonel Sheppard shouts over the roar of their P-90s and blaster.
“I don’t know,” Daniel shouts back.
A ground invader suddenly charges at Rodney from his immediate right. Seeming to appear out of nowhere its skin is so dark. Snarling like a rabid creature. Rodney abruptly turns and mows him down, barely dodging a stray monster tail dropping just a little too close to the ground and almost taking out his head. Not to mention the rest of his body.
“Any idea what the hell their friends are,” the scientist screeches.
“I’m not sure but I’ve got an idea,” Kenmore announces then let’s off a volley.
These creatures are friggin’ hard to take down and their humanoid companions aren’t exactly easily dispatched either. It’s reminiscent of how adrenaline pumped people can take unfathomable amounts of rounds before they actually go down. Or how much firepower it originally took to take down the Wraith before the Expedition got reconnected with Earth and got new armor-piercing rounds for their regular ammunition. They keep firing but they can already tell that their ammo supply is going to run out quickly at their current rate of fire and kills… and they were already running low to begin with. Sheppard makes the call for the benefit of all of them.
“Split up and start working with the villagers to take out targets! It’ll lighten the load on us! Go! Now!”
Obediently the group breaks apart. Scattering into the chaotically organized village.
The village’s lamplights of torches had served to illuminate it well before, but now those same torches are a pittance. The greater fires of destroyed buildings and invasion illuminate the village’s silhouette. Making it less a shapely bedazzling vixen and more a bedraggled dying harpy. Everywhere is war. Battle. Death. Dying. Living. Surviving. Every single one a harbinger. Good omens. Bad omens. The once dark sky is lit by glowing smoke. Smoke that has caught the light of the flames beneath it. Shadows become starker, darker. Further sensory deprivating. Giving the whole place the surreal sheen of Hell.
Sheppard keeps his aim up, luckily the ground invaders always roar before they attack so he can hear them coming long before they actually get near him. Without having to travel too far into the village, he finds a group of villagers manning something that bears a striking resemblance to a trebuchet and without saying a word immediately concentrates his fire on the beast they’re trying to bring down with the medieval siege weapon. He quickly discovers another downside to this fight: these creatures are smart. Really smart. Skilled fighters too. With a single deafening swipe of its tail, the beast smashes the trebuchet and sends John and the other villagers diving to get out of the way. He tucks and rolls. Coming up in a very nice looking kneel with perfect aim at the bare chest of a roaring grounder coming straight at him. A couple handfuls of shots take it down. John returns his aim to the sky…but there’s no beast in accessible range. He gets to his feet again and heads further into the village as the trebuchet villagers have already done, abandoning the wreckage of the obliterated weapon.
It’s only a handful of yards before he comes across another group manning a mini catapult and there’s someone familiar ordering the contraption’s angle and depth.
“Range forty-two! Elevation sixty-five! Three degrees west! Ready now! Steady,” U’dana orders loudly and proudly. John has to admire the old woman. Her apparent age has done little to dampen her obvious spit-fire.
John follows her lead and aims as she instructed the catapult to be, compensating for his much smaller projectiles’ size and speed capabilities. He lines his sights up. Watching the beast boldly flying towards them like a craft coming in to napalm, it’s tail hanging in a controlled dangle behind it. It’s ready for the showdown too. U’dana’s raised fist drops.
The catapult operator lets the rope go as John yanks his finger back on his trigger. Light flashes from the P-90’s barrel tip as lead bullets pelt the creature’s hide. John can’t tell if it’s doing any damage. The boulder manages to clip the animal’s right shoulder as the beast tries to dodge the airborne chunk of stone. The flyer shrieks. Loses altitude and control. Tumbling down to the right… Directly into the line of fire of another nearby trebuchet.
“Fire,” U’dana shouts again.
John watches the second trebuchet’s lance launch. The foot-thick six-foot long log slams in a perfect straight line directly into the top of the beast’s head. Dropping the animal immediately. The flyer smashes into the ground in a violent explosion of dirt. John looks over at the old woman.
“I like your style,” he smiles.
“The night is not over yet, young man,” she warns mirthlessly.
On cue another beast makes a tail pass at them. It misses the catapult completely but succeeds in causing Sheppard, U’dana, and the other villagers to dive out of its way, away from the siege weapon… and right into the apparently waiting aims of the grounders.
This time there isn’t just one roar out of the darkness but a cacophony. So many and it’s so dark John doesn’t know where to aim. Suddenly a powerful force rams into his back. Blacking John out for a second. He thankfully comes to before whatever’s tackling him and he hit the ground. Probably has a concussion just from the force of the impact alone. They roll across the dirt, John losing his grip on his P-90. Fatal for him if the grounder gets its hands on it first, but Sheppard gets a bonus or rather it should be a fear for him, his attacker starts trying to maul him. In its mad psychotic flailing it ends up ripping John’s rifle from his tacvest and flinging the weapon somewhere clear of both of them. So it’s going to be hand-to-hand. Good.
The humanoid invader starts double-fisted pounding John’s chest. The wind is getting drilled out of him with each thudding. He can feel himself actually being pounded deeper into the ground like a nail head getting hammered into a piece of wood way too far and bowing the wood around its entrance. When grounder raises both fists up for another assault, John tries to struggle free… but he’s pinned by the creature straddling him with its tree trunk-thick legs. He can’t budge. Okay, so not good. John watches the fists start coming down… until another grounder being flung off by a nearby villager knocks into his attacker. Both invaders hit the ground and John’s set free.
He barely has time to roll over and get to his feet when the grounder that had pinned him, at least he thinks it’s the same one, charges at him again. Roaring. And finally John notices that its eyes have no pupils. None whatsoever. They’re glowing bright brilliant white against its ink black skin and the sight is ‘Holy crap’ creepy. The creature’s bald too. And massive. Much more than John had thought they were before getting this up close and personal with one. Apparently distance no matter how short it is works to these guys’ advantage. John gauges its weight and incredible height against his own, figures his best bet is to dodge as many blows as possible if not all of them and pray that the thing wears itself out eventually.
The grounder swings at him. One hammering fisted arm at a time. It looked ridiculous actually, like an elementary school kid in his first fight and doing that eyes squeezed shut blind pinwheel flailing thing, but John dodges well. Time goes on… or at least it seems to. John has to fight off the giggles and the immense urge to just stop moving and double-over laughing his ass off definitely more than once for the past five minutes at least. But there’s a downside to the hilarious absurdity. The grounder didn’t seem to be wearing itself down any. Not one bit… but John is. And fast. Faster than he’d expected to by focusing on just dodging. This tactic doesn’t seem to be working the way he’d thought it would.
Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard reaches behind his back and draws his diving knife from its sheath on his tactical belt during another dodge backward from the attempted slugging. The grounder doesn’t seem to notice the weapon or care. It keeps berserkly swinging at him. Again John reels backward at every wild swing. Angling left. Right. Left. Finally he sees an opening and dives forward under the grounders arm. Spinning out to the right. Away from the grounder. And coming up to face its back. The grounder roars again. Stumbling in its attempt to try and follow after John. Clearly it’s not used to a move like that. John takes advantage of the confusion. He jumps up and angles his legs on the way back down to land his feet perfectly against the back of one of the grounder’s knees. The creature’s momentum forms a perfect combination with John’s weight and gravity to bring it down to its knees. Hard. It reaches out to try and stop its fall but John rushes forward. He straddles the grounder, puts a hand on its forehead, pulls its snarling head back, and digs the side of his knife blade so deeply across its throat that John almost decapitates the thing.
It’s bellows ebb into loud drowning gurgling. It starts shaking. Seizing. John lets go of its head and the grounder slumps forward onto the dirt, twitching and still gurgling.
John looks around. Breathless. Sweating. There are plenty more where that one came from.
* * *
The flying creatures crisscross and swirl over the village. Destroying buildings, siege weapons, and people alike. Ground invaders swarm in from the crest of the hill at the bottom edge of the village. Going after any moving thing. The villagers fight deftly amid their flaming community, all of them. There are children hiding underneath wagons wielding little wooden swords striking out at the feet of passing by grounders. Tripping up the invaders and giving the adults the opportunity to jump on them and slay the enemy. Elderly throw balls at the grounders made of fired clay and filled with lamp liquid with lit wicks burning from the ball’s neck. The clay shattering against the massive black hulks and setting them on fire in a tormenting blaze that the grounders cannot put out… much in the same way that the village is burning.
* * *
Night goes on. More and more flying creatures break off and never return to the fight. Some of the grounders seem to disappear as well. It’s hard to tell if that’s due to kills or retreating, neither seems likely, but of the enemies that remain, their tactics are the same. Killing for pleasure. Killing for sport. Killing for fun. Sheer ferocity. Blind rage. Slaughter. The villagers still hold their own though, but the same cannot be said for the village itself. What once looked like medieval buildings created from sketches in old books have burned down to still torching shards huddled to the ground, massive magnificent bonfires all over the settlement. Continuing to light the waxing night.
* * *
The burgeoning light of dawn finally crosses the village. The honey-colored rays of light force the rest of the flying creatures to break away from their attack on the village for good. The rest of the grounders start retreating as well. They don’t exactly go willingly. Villagers keep defending themselves as the invaders pull back. Fending off the furious fight that’s still left in the invaders even as they fall back to the village hill’s crest.
* * *
Day does come. Early morning light shines over the village and illuminates what has been done. No more flying creatures. No ground invaders in the streets. Just destruction. More buildings than had been previously thought have survived basically unscathed, the bonfire buildings may have been large but they were by no means numerous. There is still a village left. There is still a community of substantial size left… and survivors. Although the body count of the dead is high, the numbers of survivors is higher. Families, generations have survived, not without their injuries, but they are all still alive. They work together putting out glowing embers in the burnt remnants, cleaning the devastation from their streets, gathering food and clothing, tending to their wounded.
* * *
Whatever purpose this room had served before, it’s now serving the duties of a triage unit. Its interior walls are stucco-ed a cement gray, smoothed by a caring crafting hand, and lined by bed after bed after bed. Windows paned in a common grid of six and framed by slats of a nice natural colored-stained oak, no curtains though, shine the fresh day’s light down on the wounded in those beds… so many, many beds. In many ways it’s a reminder, a memory, of the Hoffans falling victim to their own drug, but in other regards this is a new thought all its own. After all, the Hoffans hadn’t been assaulted by animals of God knows what origin and their white-eyed humanoid friends. John looks around himself. He’s battered and bruised so bad he’s not really sure that the purple-black and jaundiced edges will ever go back to his natural skin color and there’s black goo on him that he supposed was grounders’ blood, but overall he’s fine. That’s more than can be said for some of the people in here. His eyes travel around the room again, yep, just like when the Hoffans started getting sick.
There are burn victims, blunt trauma victims, people who had been stabbed, and people who had been trampled. There’s even a few claw victims from what he’d understood from overhearing people who’d come to this building with wounded friends or family members because other triage buildings were full up. The man in the bed nearest to him had shrapnel wounds, great big spikes and dozens of thinner splinters of wood from being way too close to a trebuchet or some other siege weapon when a flyer’s tail smashed it to smithereens. A nurse is tending to him, gently plucking out the smaller slivers with a large delicate pair of stainless steel surgical tweezers. She was leaving the large spikes for either Jennifer or her head nurse, Marie Ko, to take care of.
When he’d first realized that the coming light of the sun was warding off some of the flyers and the grounders, he’d ran into U’dana again and asked her if she thought it was safe for him to make a run back to the Stargate to call his people for help. She had shaken her head and both had continued fighting, he with his diving knife that had somehow proved much handier than his P-90 and she with a short sword and shield. Another five minutes had passed when his earpiece crackled and Woolsey’s voice had come over it loud and clear. Perturbed, Woolsey informed John that he had missed a scheduled check in. John was elated to hear the man’s distinct attorney-at-law voice but kept to business at hand with his knife hand staying out in front of him and the other immediately answering Woolsey back by tapping John’s earpiece and John shouting that the village had come under attack. Almost immediately Woolsey’s voice had taken on a disturbed sound to it when he’d asked if he should send reinforcements. John had told him ‘No’, that the village leader said that the Stargate, even though far from the village, wasn’t safe yet and probably wouldn’t be safe until the assault was done. When Woolsey started arguing the point, John had had to abandon his side of the conversation in lieu of fending off an oncoming grounder with the focused aim of both hands. When Sheppard had finally got the grounder downed courtesy of it stupidly, and luckily for John, tripping over a rock and John using both hands to thrust his knife as deep into the damned thing’s throat as possible as it came down and then the creature staying on the ground, he finally tuned back into Woolsey who had apparently been asking John over and over and now urgently yelling ‘What the hell was that?’ John had figured the man had been referring to the ground invader’s charging roar and simply answered ‘The enemy’, he was too winded to get out much more than that. Throats were supposed to be the ‘soft’ parts, but even these guy’s soft parts still took a lot out of you to take advantage of, even when they tripped and gravity and their weight did most of the work for you. There had been silence on the other end of the radio then and John knew that Woolsey understood. The Expedition leader’s voice returned to its usual attorney’s tone as he told John that they were sending a MALP through to keep an eye on the area around the gate and as soon as it was confirmed clear he’d send Lorne’s team through along with three medical units headed by Keller. John had been thankful then and as he looks around now, he’s even more thankful… except for one thing, he hasn’t seen any of his team, Doctor Jackson, or Kenmore since they first scattered at the beginning of the attack. And he hasn’t heard anything about of any them either since things have calmed down and Lorne and Keller’s teams had arrived… not a single damn thing.
The call comes from across the room.
John looks up from his temporary lull spot by the building’s door, out of the bustle of running a triage. Doctor Jennifer Keller is a handful of beds down from him with a wounded survivor. Trying to get the man into the bed and there are no other free hands to help her.
“I need your help.”
John rushes over to her. It’s a slow, ginger effort for both of them but they manage to get the man into bed while carefully keeping his bandaged neck still. Suddenly the building’s door opens and in walks Teyla, Rodney, and Doctor Jackson, battle worn but breathless, walking, and alive. John and Jennifer immediately look up at them and start grinning like idiots at the sight of their friends. John looks over at Jennifer and she gives him the relieved nod to go ahead and go to them, she’s got this man handled now that he’s on the bed. John abandons her and rushes over to his friends and the Doc.
“John,” Teyla is overjoyed to see him, he likes that.
“Teyla,” he answers, liking not saying her name in terms of an obituary even more.
Rodney aims a happy smile at him and a passing clap on the back as he hurries past John in order to get over to his girlfriend, Keller. Daniel nods at John and John nods back before returning his attention to Teyla’s beaming, battle-mussed face.
“You okay,” he asks, putting a hand on her bicep. He can feel the strain of the night-long battle in her taught muscles through the black knit fabric of her leather and wool jacket.
“Yes, we are all fine.” Then her expression clouds. Concern writes itself all over her beautiful face, “Have you seen Ronon,” she asks.
“Or Ursula?” Daniel adds on.
John shakes his head, dropping his hand from Teyla’s arm. So that was it. He had hoped that seeing Teyla, Rodney, and Jackson meant that Ronon and Kenmore had been found already and were helping in other triage buildings in the village. So much for the hope.
“When we heard Jennifer’s voice and your name, we thought that maybe you were all here together,” Teyla clarifies.
Sheppard looks around the room again. A bitter tightness in his shoulder muscles, “No, haven’t seen anybody since you guys just walked in.”
He tried to stave off the pit growing in his stomach, no, no, Ronon Dex couldn’t be taken down by anything like those ground invader things. John doubts even their flying buddies could so much as dent his buddy… but there was when Atlantis had returned to Earth a little over four months ago now. A Wraith drone had gotten the drop on Ronon as he was defending Rodney from another Wraith drone’s sneak attack. In that moment, the Wraith knife blade bit deep into his friend’s side. Punctured a critical organ. Killed the Satedan… and then later a Wraith commander had brought his friend back from the dead and they were a team again. Team Atlantis. But… had that happened again? Had one of those things gotten the drop on Ronon? John hadn’t gotten a proper tally on the body count yet and he doubted that those grounder’s could bring people back from the dead, if they could’ve, wouldn’t they have done it to their own dead? Had his Satedan warrior friend, his best friend, gone down to another attack from behind defending a villager—
Suddenly the door slams open. Bouncing off the wall behind it. Thank God those doors are sturdy. Ronon Dex sturdy. The six-foot tall Satedan walks in, caked from head to toe in black sludge like Arnold Schwarzenegger camouflaging himself with mud against the Predator in those scenes in the movie. His disposition, even though Sheppard knows the man sees them standing in front of him, is both dark and dour. More so than usual. Rough night for all John figures. Ronon stalks up to them.
“I ran into Lorne in another building. He said you were here.”
John simply nods. Jennifer brushes past Sheppard as she rushes up to Ronon.
“Ronon, my God, are you hurt?”
He looks at her. John notices the change in his friend’s expression. Dex’s whole demeanor lightens at Jennifer’s attention to him and care towards him. It’s clear that his lingering feelings for her are still that, lingering, but he’s still keeping them in check and not trying to infringe on Jennifer and Rodney’s relationship by being mean to either of them. Just liking the attention. “No,” Ronon answers bluntly but kindly.
“Are you sure,” she eyes him.
“You should see the other guys,” he quips at her with his mouth curving into a roguish grin especially for her benefit. Oh yeah, he still has a crush on her, he’s just not going to make a big deal about it.
She smiles at him, “Well at least sit down.”
She guides him down to sit on the foot of a bed beside their group. He lets her and she leaves him to return to Rodney and another patient. After watching her go for a moment, Ronon returns his eyes to Sheppard, Teyla, and Jackson.
“All of you fine,” he asks. That’s right, nothing to see here folks, move along.
Teyla nods, suppressing the urge to aim a teasing and knowing smile at him, “Yes, we all are.”
“Have you seen Ursula,” Jackson practically blurts out.
“No.” Ronon answers the archeologist sharply. So harshly in fact that Daniel has to ask…
“Do you care,” Jackson looks at him over the top of his glasses. Waiting to analyze Ronon’s reaction when his answer comes.
Daniel sighs and looks away from him. For God’s sake, no matter the personal issues going on between the members, SG teams no matter where they were were supposed to have each other’s backs. Perhaps it’s more than Woolsey and the IOA he should be worrying about on Ursula and Michael’s behalf.
Sheppard watches Daniel and the scientist’s face and reads the thoughts there, but before he can tell the Doctor that Kenmore is still safe with his team…
Kenmore walks in. Without the bang but just as caked in sludge as Ronon and just as not in a happy mood either. Sometime, somewhere in the night she’s lost her hat and whatever hairband she’d been using to keep her hair in its usual smooth bun. Her long, naturally curly, brown hair was now straightened by a thick layer of the dried goo of grounder blood. She looks battle haunted rather than battle worn though… like Ronon. Without a word, she steadily walks past the others and Sheppard. Keller runs up to her the same as she’d done when Ronon walked in.
“Lieutenant, are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she grumbles, trying to go past Doctor Keller.
“But all this blood,” Jennifer marvels. Where she knows Ronon well enough to trust his judgment of his own body, Kenmore is new to her and she wasn’t sure the Lieutenant’s judgment was as good.
“I’m fine.” Kenmore tries to go past her again. But Jennifer’s not having it again.
“But the blood—”
Kenmore suddenly grabs Keller by the biceps and forcibly stops the woman in front of her, “Doc!” She yells then stares straight into Keller’s baby blue eyes, “It’s not mine,” she says quietly, “None of it is mine.”
Jennifer stays silent.
Kenmore lets go of her and continues on to the door at the other end of the room. She opens it and enters the outdoors. The door swings closed behind her. John turns to the others and catches Teyla’s intent focus on the opposite door… and the new expression on her face. Fear mixed with something he couldn’t quite tell what was but it was something he wasn’t used to seeing on her face…
“What is it?” He asks her.
Teyla stays silent, her eyes trained.
“What happened,” he asks, although he feels it’s more of a demand.
Teyla thinks about moving her mouth, but her mind is otherwise engaged…
Rodney slipped in the mud. Morning would tell whether or not any of it would be due to water-made mud or blood-made mud. One of the humanoid enemies charges for the attack, but Teyla was there. She rushes to her friend’s defense and turns her P-90 on the offender. It takes her last fifteen shots, but the creature does indeed fall. A mere three feet away from Rodney. After the handful of seconds it takes to determine whether or not the creature would rise again passes and it does not rise, Teyla hastens to Rodney’s side. Abandoning her rifle in lieu of her pistol as she kneels beside him.
“Are you alright,” she asks him.
“Yeah,” he nods at her. Then holds up his pistol for her to see. He triggers its clip to drop from its handle. The clip was empty. The pistol was out of ammunition. And she had already seen that he as well had abandoned his P-90 when it had run out of ammunition. She could also tell that the clips to replenish his pistol’s supply had been depleted otherwise Rodney would not have gone to the effort of releasing his pistol’s clip. His frown and giving up sigh tells her all she needs to know. He had given all he could, there was no more to give.
Teyla nods and urgently digs into one of her tactical vest’s many pockets for one of the two spare clips gate team members are required to carry upon their persons when in the field. She puts it firmly in his hand. He’s grateful. She covers the two of them as Rodney tries to reload. He only succeeds in dropping the new clip to the ground when another ground attacker charges towards them out of the darkness. Teyla turns to fire but before she could, Lieutenant Kenmore suddenly appears before them, equally out of darkness. The headstrong Lieutenant takes on the black-skinned creature head-on… and she was wielding two double-sided battle axes.
With a deft strike that Teyla knew was only born out of experience, Kenmore brought both her arms close together. Raised them in unison. Gashing diagonally up the ground attacker’s torso from its side to its opposite shoulder. Then the young woman brings her twinned weapons down in a hammer blow with a battle roar of her own at her screeching wounded opponent. The blades slam down into the side of the invader’s neck. It’s thick, black blood spurting out of the severed major artery like a geyser all over the Lieutenant’s chest. Her neck. Part of her battle soiled face.
No sooner does that attacker go down then two more appear. Coming from the left and right.
They charge her. She easily spins to the left. Raising one axe up and keeping it in the air while she slams its twin’s blade into the chest of the attacker coming at her from that direction. There’s a sickening pop as the axe blade cracks through the invader’s sternum through sheer force alone. More blood pours over both of the axe’s blades and her hand as the Lieutenant drives the weapon through. Penetrating vital major organs. With another heart surging roar, Lieutenant Kenmore yanks the blade out through the attacker’s side. Parts of organs, bone, and raw flesh come out with the axe. She continues her turn. Refocuses her attention on the remaining ground attacker.
Pivoting just as elegantly and well-trained as Teyla does, Lieutenant Kenmore reverses her spin. Continues it as she approaches the remaining enemy. The creature approaches her. The Lieutenant spreads her arms wide apart. Far. Stiffly. Firmly. Her right hand was free and clear of the attacker but she does not need her right hand or its axe. She finishes her spin with her left hand’s axe acting as a natural extension of her arm. It’s blade slashing straight through the attacker’s neck. All the way through. Cleanly. The ground attacker’s head topples off behind it as its body continues its charge… then staggering to its knees… then falling forward onto the ground. It’s raw bleeding neck stump one foot away from Rodney’s knee.
Rodney and Teyla look up at Lieutenant Kenmore. Teyla felt the fire-warmed night air breeze into her gaped mouth. All the other woman did was look back at them, see their shocked faces, but also that they were okay. Then the Lieutenant charges off into the night again. Disappearing back into the darkness.
… “Teyla,” Sheppard presses. Turning towards her.
“The Lieutenant is a very… skilled warrior,” Teyla answers delicately. A little rattled.
John’s cool-toned grey-green eyes analyze Teyla Emmagan’s graceful features. She has an elegant profile that isn’t about to yield anything to him, so he takes her few words as all he’s going to get out of her on the matter and judging by Teyla’s expression, which reminded him of the time she refused to look at him over their fight about her father’s friend Orin’s village, whatever answers he wanted, she was not going to give him.
Far more quietly than anyone else had, U’dana enters the room. She clears her throat. That gets their attentions, sans Jennifer and Rodney who are too far into the rest of the room to hear the old woman.
“I know I had promised you evening meal, but would you be adverse to it being morning meal instead?”
“No, not at all. But shouldn’t we—“
“It is not the first time they have come, Doctor Jackson, it will not be the last. Please,” she steps aside and gestures out the open door, “I will lead you to my home.”
Daniel glances back at the other door at the back of the room.
“Uh, our friend has—“
“I informed her that there was a communal shower system for the mornings after such battles for those like she that had drawn much enemy blood,” U’dana glances over at Ronon, “You may partake of a hot shower as well, but do be aware that these are showers meant for you to keep your clothing on. They are only meant to wash the enemy blood from your person, not cleanse your body for the day.”
Ronon looks like he’s considering taking up her offer.
“If you wish, I can delay the distributing of the meal until after all of you have cleansed the battle from yourselves?”
Ronon stands up, “Thanks.”
He walks off to the far opposite door and exits. John watches him go, not so sure about Ronon and Kenmore being alone together with hot water. Both could use it as a very handy weapon against the other. If anything it made a useful blinding agent…
* * *
Ronon steps out the door and looks over beside it as it closes behind him. He sees that Kenmore has stripped her tactical vest and tactical belt off along with the pistol holster attached to it, the pistol still safely secured inside it, as well as her P-90 still clipped to her vest’s front. Well, he isn’t about to leave himself so defenseless. He hears the sound of water falling and follows it into a set of cordoned off communal showers. He pulls aside the white sheet and enters the enclosed area.
Inside is Kenmore, standing underneath a shower head directly above her. Steaming hot water rains down over her head and body. Melting away the black gooey blood sludge down the rest of her body. She rests her head against the wide wood plank holding the plumbing up behind it; her right hand holding down the linked chain connected to the shower head, letting the water pour down on her.
He watches the clean rain soak her hair back to its normal dark brown color. Her long hair covers her face. And he sees in the downcast of her shoulders what he feels, combat like that is never easy no matter how obviously evil the enemy is.
Ronon casually walks over and takes up position at the showerhead directly behind her back. As he faces his own wide wood plank, he can hear her breathing, trying to calm herself down, trying to take in what she had seen last night…what she had done maybe. He knows the feeling… the need… the desire. It’s what makes him reach out and pull on the chain beside his showerhead.
The water is practically scalding hot. Startling him for a moment, making his body jerk uncomfortably, but the intensely hot water is refreshing. So incredibly refreshing. Easily his chest broadens then exhales. Instantaneously every muscle relaxes. He lifts his softened face up to its downpour and lets the hot artificial rain do its work. Breathing steadily through the split of space between his lips to the rhythm of his heartbeat.
Behind him he hears Kenmore shake off her reminiscing and start showering.
* * *
“John Sheppard,” U’dana’s voice snaps him back to looking at her, “you are a very apt warrior. Even without this,” she reaches outside the door and from the other side of the wall grabs John’s P-90 with the strap and rended clip still attached to it. She holds it out to him, “Our smiths will repair that for you as you eat if you wish.”
He took it and looked the rifle over, marveling at how it’d survived the battle no more beat up than the initial tough toss had done to it. He checks the ammo clip… and gets the shock of his life, it still has just as much ammunition as it’d had when it was ripped off of him. He can’t believe. He can’t. Never in his starting on six years in this galaxy has he ever encountered this. No one had gone for it. No one had used it. Unbelievable. In that big a battle not a single person had thought to go for as advanced a weapon as this compared to what they’d been fighting with.
“Thank you,” Sheppard finally answers, “I’d be honored.”
U’dana nods as he hands the rifle back to her, she retakes the weapon reverently. Far more reverently than he thought needed, but he’d seen how these people had fought for themselves last night right down to two-year olds hiding underneath wagons with little wooden swords. These people revere fighters and their weaponry period. It truly is an honor.
U’dana gestures at the far door at the other side of the room, “Please bathe yourselves. I will ask Keltoi to come here and wait to guide you to my home. I will see to my people as I make my way there myself.”
They all nod at the Elder.
“Thank you,” Teyla says.
“Yes, thank you,” Daniel seconds.
U’dana turns soundlessly on a slight rise on the balls of her soiled feet and leaves just as quietly as she’d entered. The others glance at each other then turn and head for the far door. As they pass Rodney…
“Rodney, let’s hit the showers,” Sheppard orders him.
“I’m with Jenni—showers?”
John nods. Rodney looks over at Jennifer like a really giddy child waiting for the go ahead to go outside with his friends and play… Mommy, can I, can I, can I… She smiles and nods at him as she closes her eyes. The Canadian theoretical astrophysicist grins at her and eagerly falls in line behind Daniel as the group exits through the far door and into the outdoors.
The courtyard seems completely different from the rest of the village they’ve seen so far. There isn’t any dirt ground here, there’s cobblestone flooring. Large, fist-sized, semi-flattened, rounded, pale gray stones. Their boots make crunching sounds on the stones, but the sounds are exceptionally quiet; it doesn’t seem to go beyond an inch or two, a bizarre sort of muffling. The walls that surround them on all sides are stucco and colored a warm and cozy feeling creamy honey white. It’s like being in the courtyard of a quaint little Italian town that’s never seen a tourist in its entire life but would be well worth the trip if any tourists should happen to stumble into it. About twenty feet in front of them in their secluded round area is a large tall circle of white linen sheets suspended by inch-thick jute ropes held up by the corners of the surrounding buildings like electrical lines supplying a house. Steam rises up from the sheet circle’s center. The whole thing really does look inviting. The only thing missing is the group of little old women talking Chianti while arduously grinding laundry up and down washboards half submerged in oak barrels filled with soapy water.
The team abandons their tactical vests against a nearby wall, seeing that Kenmore has already done the same while simultaneously noting that Ronon hadn’t abandoned his gun or his belt and holster. Sheppard glances around for Ronon’s gear under the cover of looking around their surroundings to see if there are any villagers there with them. There aren’t and there’s no Satedan gear lying around anywhere. Sheppard holds open a sheet and enters first, unusual for him considering that normally he’s a gentlemen and lets the lady, Teyla, enter first but he wanted to see if there was any bloodshed going on or that had gone on inside here that the running water had washed away already. Teyla follows him in followed by Jackson then Rodney… practically shoving past Daniel.
The sensation that instantly hits them is that of a sauna. It’s exhilarating and welcoming, luxurious spa day feeling. Underneath one rain showerhead is Kenmore and underneath another head directly behind her is Ronon. Back to back. Both washing the black blood off their clothing. There’s a further six showerheads not being used. The rest of the group stakes out a showerhead, gets under them, and pulls the stainless steel, linked chain dangling down beside the equally stainless steel head.
“Hook the chain on the hook in the plank in front of you or you won’t get a steady downpour,” Kenmore tells them without looking at any of them. Her voice sounds numb.
They do as instructed and it works. Steaming hot shower water pours down on all of them and it stays blissfully sauna hot. John closes his eyes and briefly indulges in imagining, pretending he was back in Atlantis in his own awesome shower. The white porcelain pie wedge-shaped bathtub surrounded on two sides by copper and green patina walls with an Art Deco design imitating a falling waterfall at the corner with they met and the rounded edge of the pie is lined with more copper and green patina. A flat and narrow rectangular-shaped facet bends over the middle of the bottom of the pie and also mimics the waterfall motif. A perfect twin to the same flat and narrow rectangular-shaped facet not bending over but slanting down at whoever’s in the tub and about six inches above John’s head. When he stood up and thought about a nice hot shower like he’s feeling now, a frosty white forcefield came up around the perimeter of the rounded bottom of the pie wedge, going from wall to wall and the hot sheen of water rolled out of the head-high facet down over his head, immediately flattening his constantly messed up, short black hair… shoulders, relaxing away every tension a day in Atlantis and the Pegasus Galaxy brought him… his back… his torso, straightening the dark curling coarse hairs of his abdomen… his legs… his feet. He’d tap his bare feet against the warming surface of the porcelain tub, enjoying a moment of calm, peaceful Zen… just as he’s doing now, except that his feet are currently in his boots… and his clothes are still on.
“So,” Rodney’s hesitant, “how did you learn to use axes like that?”
“Rodney,” Teyla scolds.
John looks back at Rodney then over at Teyla. So that was what that had been about, at least in part. They’d seen the Lieutenant using axes at some point during last night’s fighting. Now that has John wondering what they’d seen her do with those axes.
“My Mum taught me,” Kenmore answers. Still without looking at anyone. Her voice still numb sounding like she’s going through the motions of simply talking to them, reciting an old lesson learned long ago, “She used to fight that way.”
“And when on Earth would your Mom ever have to fight like that?”
“Back off McKay,” Daniel warns as his hands rub water over his clothed forearm.
Rodney looks at him—
“Who said anything about Earth,” Ursula answers.
That even catches Daniel off-guard. All eyes turn to her. And with that, Kenmore leaves the sheets. Every eye watching her go.