By San Antonio Rose
Once the Daedalus was fully under his control and en route to Atlantis, Caldwell locked in his quarters and the other humans save Woolsey confined to a hangar bay, the Wraith known to the Lanteans as Todd sat back in the command chair to sort his thoughts. Now that the initial shock of betrayal was wearing off, he realized that the astonishment and confusion he had felt were not entirely his own. Earthlings were very open when surprised, and as he reviewed their reactions, he found that no one on the bridge at the time--Col. Caldwell, Mr. Woolsey, Maj. Marks, none of them--gave the least indication of having known what would happen when his hives left. Them, he had misjudged.
But what of John Sheppard?
Todd had known Col. Carter and deemed her a true queen; she would have known about the device had she been present and a Lantean activated it. She was also as honest as she was fearless, and she would either have told him the truth or taken it to her grave. Sheppard, though, was much like himself; he was not a man to be governed by others, and he gave his loyalty and obedience only to those whom he deemed worthy of his respect. Mr. Woolsey was no such leader. It did not surprise Todd that Woolsey could be in the dark about a matter as grave as the Attero device if Sheppard were behind its activation. And only someone with the Ancient gene could have activated it. He hoped he was wrong, but his relationship with Sheppard had always been tenuous, and he had no reason not to think Sheppard would willingly sacrifice him to save the galaxy--if he could also stomach the destruction of so many Stargates.
Curious about his human name, Todd had once taken the time to learn its origin and read about this Earth creature called fox. He was pleased to know that he’d been named after a beast renowned for its cunning. Now he resolved to use that cunning to confront Sheppard without either appearing weak to his crew or permitting Sheppard to lie to him.
Sheppard’s initial reaction, relief at contact with the Daedalus followed by confusion and anger at seeing Todd, plus the whispered exchange with Zelenka made Todd suspect that all was not well in Atlantis, and he realized that they were not in the Gateroom as they should have been. So he probed again with key information about the device phrased as an accusation and watched their faces carefully.
And he wondered... Had Atlantis lost its Stargate?
Sheppard’s reply was convincing, but Todd couldn’t afford any possibility of deception. These Earthlings, he knew, valued life too highly to waste it for what they knew to be a lie; they would either refuse to speak or tell the truth. Sheppard might not respect Woolsey as a leader, but he would not let him die. So he made the threat.
And though Sheppard paused the transmission to confer with Zelenka and Teyla, Todd brushed Teyla’s mind through the mindlink and discovered that her guard was very low. He could not eavesdrop, though he had not planned to, but Teyla’s concern was palpable.
Todd had seen Teyla control a queen. He had tested her mental defenses before taking her to meet the Primary and found them strong--not strong enough to withstand a sustained mental battle with the Primary or any of the great queens, but certainly strong enough to keep the lesser Wraith at bay. She had even locked him out completely during the battle with the rival hive. That her guard was this low now simply added to the evidence of their innocence. And when she spoke as his hand hovered over Woolsey’s heart, her guard dropped completely, and he could see her memories, confirming her words and adding details she would not voice.
Those people, whoever and whatever they were, had not simply stolen a piece of the device. They had taken McKay and another man, a guest named Daniel Jackson.
Now, Todd was not particularly fond of McKay and knew nothing of this Dr. Jackson, but he knew that Sheppard’s team meant the world to him. If Sheppard was asking to go with them and insisting that he needed the Daedalus to do the job, it meant two things: Atlantis had lost its Stargate, and Sheppard feared for McKay’s life should Todd destroy the device. But Todd could not appear to trust Sheppard’s word; his crew was already unhappy at having to deal with the Lanteans at all, and trusting Sheppard would be seen as weakness. So he threatened Woolsey again.
He knew Sheppard didn’t care about Woolsey. He knew Sheppard didn’t fear him. But he also knew that Sheppard didn’t underestimate him and understood the degree of desperation required to risk taking the Daedalus. And he hoped Sheppard would trust him with McKay’s life.
None of them really had a choice.
The strategy worked. And as the Daedalus took off into hyperspace, Todd closed off his mind to his subordinates and tried to work out how best to honor Sheppard’s unspoken concerns. He had almost figured out whether the Asgard beam would do the trick when the ship dropped out of hyperspace.
As soon as he heard his second say “battle damage,” Todd knew that the saboteur must be Ronon Dex. No one else on that ship would attack the engineering room so crudely; perhaps they might try stealing control crystals or locking the mainframe, but only a Satedan would simply blow things up. So when at last his guards returned with Dr. Keller, he knew precisely how to get past her attempts to shield Ronon. He caught her off-guard briefly by asking about her weapon, though her reply amused him--she must indeed have “ditched” her “weapon,” as Ronon was too protective to have allowed her to turn herself in. Then he pressed her conscience. He didn’t exactly lie, as he knew Sheppard well enough to surmise that he would attempt to shut down the device himself had he the means, but he certainly did not adhere to the Earthlings’ standard of “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
Keller was a healer, sworn to do no harm. He knew alerting her to the danger to human worlds would make her waver, and it did... but not enough. She did not betray Ronon, and given his second’s report, she could not help them fix the weapons even if she knew how. But she looked genuinely sorry.
Todd surmised that Ronon would be waiting to rescue Keller and then to take back the ship. So he decided to let him succeed. Once they were in hyperspace, he ordered his second to program the ship to crash into the Ancient facility and lock the humans out. Then he ordered all the Wraith on board to the 302 bay and beamed them all into the Dart’s storage buffer. And he waited.
He had not wanted to destroy them. He wanted to honor Sheppard’s trust, such as it was. But once again he found himself without options. He could only hope that the humans could save themselves. And if not... perhaps they had outlived their usefulness to him.
When he launched the Dart from the 302 bay, he flew just to the edge of sensor range and stopped. Though he could not actually see what was happening, the sensor data kept him apprised of the battle between the Travelers’ ship and the strange ships that came from the surface, the cessation of the energy reading from the surface, the Daedalus going through the planet--that had to be Sheppard’s doing!--and the subsequent explosions on the planet from the Travelers’ weapons fire.
For the first time in his long life, Todd very nearly wept. He was so used to betrayal that he had sadly misjudged the Lanteans. But now... now he knew their true measure.
He could only hope, as he headed for the nearest Stargate, that they knew his as well.
A/N: Parts of this story were inspired by discussions on the SciFi forum and in the comments on Joseph Mallozzi’s blog.
The name Todd is derived from the Middle English word tod, which means “fox.” (I had seen this on baby name sites before and just found confirmation in the Middle English Dictionary.) Sheppard and McKay seem to name Wraith rather indiscriminately, but Todd is a crafty fellow, so I think the name is particularly apt.