Disclaimer: I don't own Stargate Atlantis, etc.
Summary: Feeling angry and betrayed by the Atlanteans, Michael exacts justice in the most poetic way possible: by turning Sheppard into a Wraith, as he was turned into a human.
Chapter 1 of 8
Chapter 2: Culling
The citizens of Serama were enjoying a quiet night when the Stargate opened and six darts came through. They could hear the whiz of the engines as they flew overhead, and people gathered their family members as close as possible. They ran from their houses screaming, trying to find what cover they could.
The white beams descended from the ships, scooping up the inhabitants as they passed. Images of Wraith appeared in the woods, scaring people into unwittingly staying in plain sight.
The Wraith known as Sheppard watched them scatter from inside his dart, and he laughed. It was so much fun to chase them and watch them scatter. Half of his loops around the village were for no other purpose than fright. It was sad how mindless they were in their fear. It made rounding them up into groups to be culled at the same time all that much easier.
He would get to feed again tonight; Michael had promised. It would taste good, and then the ache that was already forming in his gut would be appeased.
When the Wraith had gathered their fill, Sheppard felt it like a buzzer in the back of his mind. His queen was sending him the message to stop, to leave some of the herd alive for later culling. She was wise.
He flew his dart back through the gate, relishing the challenge of navigating his ship through such a small hole at high speeds. Threading the needle, it was called. Who had told him that?
The dart emerged from the gate into space where the hive was waiting for him. As he got closer, the hive’s auto-piloting system took over and he relaxed. He ran his hands along the sides of the dart, savoring the feel. Nothing was like flying. Not even feeding.
A voice in the back of his mind whispered that the dart felt wrong, that it was too confining. Ships were meant to be open and seat more people. Unless he was in atmosphere, then a one-person craft was fine. But it should shake when he flew really fast. But that wasn’t right, was it? Darts didn’t shake. They were all he’d ever flown, right?
Michael was waiting for him when he landed. “How was the culling?” He seemed anxious for Sheppard’s answer.
“It was amazing.” Sheppard patted the hood of the dart. Hood? What was a hood? “This thing sure can fly.”
Michael’s smile seemed frozen in place. He didn’t want to talk about the stupid ship; he wanted Sheppard to think about the herd. “Did you enjoy watching the humans run for their lives?”
“They aren’t very smart, are they?” Sheppard offered. He looked at Michael and saw the fake smile, as he sensed the false camaraderie. What did he want him to say? That it sickened him to frighten people like that? That there had to be a better way to cull a herd? Michael seemed to relish the hunt too much for such answers to be prudent.
“No, they’re not,” Michael agreed. “Shall we enjoy the fruits of our labor?”
Michael walked off, leaving Sheppard to follow him down the hall leading to rows of cells filled with the herd they’d just captured. Many were crying or shouting. “Please, let us go!” One woman begged.
Michael stopped to stare at her. She would do. He mentally signaled the drone guarding the cell that he had selected her. The drone opened the door and pulled her out, dragging her behind him. Michael led the way to a room with a long table, laden with human food. The drone pushed the woman into a chair as Michael and Sheppard took up their own at the opposite end.
“You must be hungry, dear woman,” Michael crooned at her. “Eat you fill.”
The table held a wide variety of food, and the thin woman seemed torn between it and the three Wraith watching her. The food won out, and she began to eat, nibbling at first, and then progressing to hasty bites.
Something about this scene was familiar to Sheppard, but he had no idea why. The woman had his full attention. She was bursting with the life force he so desperately craved. His stomach twisted watching her, so close, yet Michael was silently pressuring him to show restraint.
Would this hunger never end?
The longer he sat watching her eating, becoming stronger, healthier, with each bite, the more he wanted to leap across the table and latch his hand onto her chest. He watched her breasts heave up and down as she took big bites that left her gasping. It sounded like she was crying while she ate, but he couldn’t spare any attention for her face. It was all about the chest.
He would put his hand just there, between her breasts, right over he heart, and beckon the sweet life to come to him. She would tremble beneath him, giving up all she had so he could feel right. And then it would be over, and his gut would give him a few hours peace until he became hungry again.
Michael began to stalk quietly toward her as she finished her meal, Sheppard mirroring him. They were halfway to her when she noticed them. With a shriek, she stood, knocking over her chair, and backed up. Sheppard and Michael were on her in an instant. Michael held her shoulders, running a finger across her cheek. “Shh,” he comforted.
She stopped moving, but began sobbing harder, begging. “Please, don’t do this, please….”
Sheppard’s eyes dropped from her face, mentally tracing the path to her heart. His hand rose, and he let it rest gently on her sternum. “Please…” she kept whispering.
His gut flared, and he sank his fingers into her, sighing with release as the rightness flowed again. As with last time, it ended to quickly, and he was left with an empty husk. Michael was watching him expectantly. “Does it ever go away?” he asked.
“Does what?” Michael returned, confused.
“The hunger,” Sheppard clarified. He was confused himself. Why didn’t he know this? Why was feeding so unfamiliar?
Sadness passed fleetingly through Michael’s face, and Sheppard recognized it as the first genuine emotion he’d seen yet. “Why don’t I take you to meet some friends of ours? I’ve been hogging all your time ever since you recovered.”
Without further ado, Michael led him out of the room. “Don’t you need to feed?” Sheppard asked, knowing he certainly hadn’t shared his meal.
Michael unwillingly felt touched by Sheppard’s concern. He smashed it down firmly, knowing it was a leftover human trait from his recent experience, one he needed to be rid of. Wraith were survivors, not sappy idiots. That was reserved for food. “I’m fine,” was all he answered.
They arrived at a room where four Wraith, carefully selected by the queen, were waiting. They nodded at the newcomers, gesturing to two empty seats at their table. Michael and Sheppard sat. Michael’s attention was on the black and red stones sitting in grooves built in to the table, while Sheppard’s was on his fellow Wraith. One was looking at him curiously, while the other three were obviously forcing themselves to look at the game on the table. Weird.
“Feel like playing some Herd Hunt?” Michael asked, indicating the table.
“What is it?” Sheppard asked.
One of the Wraith who’d been ignoring him laughed. “The black stones are the herd, the red are the warriors. You move the warriors around to gather the herd. Warriors can move in any direction, and if you have three warriors next to each other, they form a dart, and can jump over a spot. The herd can only move forward and backwards. You have to round them up in groups of four, and then they are culled. The Wraith who collects the largest herd wins.”
Ah, a game of strategy. He could do that. It actually sounded vaguely familiar, if slightly off. Sheppard took that as a sign that he must have played it before. “I’m in,” he agreed.
The one who’d explained the game went first, then the one who’d been staring at him. Each player took turns moving their stones around, mocking each other’s poor movements as they went. By the end, Sheppard had the largest herd, followed closely by Michael. The four Wraith bothered Sheppard. They could have played much better if they’d worked together. Instead they were constantly trying to steal each other’s herds, thus letting many stones escape. Michael and Sheppard had started working together unconsciously at some point, hence their win.
“Hey, you’re good at this,” the laughing one said.
They played several more games, and Sheppard found himself relaxing into the banter. Most of the others liked to boast when they stole someone’s herd, but Sheppard preferred to remain silent, so they forgot to guard their herds against him.
He won every game and laughed the whole way through it.
A few hours later, the game broke up and they went their separate ways. Michael led Sheppard back to the room he’d first woken up in. “What’s going on?” Sheppard asked.
“You need to take your medicine again,” Michael answered.
“What medicine? I feel fine.”
Michael let out a huff like he was suffering the stubbornness of a child. At least Sheppard wasn’t blindly obeying him anymore… that had been creepy. “You feel fine now, but you were injured and you will feel sick later if you do not take this. Are you remembering things yet?”
Was he? He had vague feelings, most of which were telling him something wasn’t right, but no actual memories. He shook his head no. His instincts told him his ‘medicine’ had something to do with his misgivings.
“Your memories will never come back if you do not allow me to heal you,” Michael explained.
“Are you my doctor?” John asked. John. Where had that come from? But it was right. John. Sheppard. John Sheppard. He was John Sheppard. Why didn’t the other Wraith have names, just him and Michael? And Michael had a funny voice for a doctor. It shouldn’t sound like that. It should be melodic and… different. Sheppard – John – lacked the words to describe what was wrong.
Michael was becoming annoyed at Sheppard’s procrastination, but he knew he had to allow it. Sheppard needed to know what he was doing so that later, his plan would succeed. “I’m as good as,” Michael answered, forcefully lifting Sheppard’s arm. Sheppard pulled it taunt, watching Michael’s cold face, before acquiescing and exposing the crook of his elbow.
Michael smiled at him and patted him on the arm when he was done. “There, that wasn’t so bad.” The tension in Sheppard’s mind eased, and he forgot his doubts. Why would Michael hurt him? He wasn’t competition.
Several more days passed on the hive-ship. Sheppard flew a dart during two more cullings, and played Herd Hunt with various Wraith afterwards. He was not allowed to feed on days when their was no culling, thus adding to the thrill when he was able to participate. The days in between without feeding were miserable and traumatic. His innards felt swollen and abused, as if someone had been beating him mercilessly for hours. His skin would feel too tight, his muscles ached, and his bones felt heavy.
At least none of the other Wraith were feeding between cullings either. Well, the queen was, but that was okay.
The whole time Michael rarely left his side. Every night before he went to sleep, Michael gave him his medicine, always waiting until his head hurt and his mind was swarmed with confusing feelings to give it to him.
“Why aren’t I remembering anything yet?” Sheppard asked Michael, seven nights after his first culling.
“You will,” Michael reassured. “I have a feeling you will very soon.”
The next night, Michael did not give him his shot. “You’re ready to go without it,” was the only explanation offered.
Sheppard didn’t sleep well that night. The feeling that something was very wrong would not let up, and eventually he drifted into a fitful sleep racked with images of being surrounded by the herd, laughing and jesting with them as he had over Herd Hunt. He remembered traveling through the gate with humans, and not hunting them. Instead, he was the hunted. In his dreams, he killed Wraith.
Memories of individual humans erupted, and specific faces came to mind. There was a woman with cappuccino skin and a warm smile, who tripped him with sticks. There was a giant of a man who didn’t talk much, but always had his back. And there was one guy who wouldn’t shut up, but evoked the strongest affectionate feelings of them all.
Sheppard awoke gasping. He knew those people, those humans. Why would a Wraith know any of the herd? This wasn’t right. He raced out of his room to find Michael, who slept just two doors down the hall. Sheppard’s fist connected soundly with the door over and over again, producing thundering echoes down the halls.
Michael opened his door with a disgruntled look, demanding “What?”
“Why do I know humans?” Sheppard gasped. “I dreamed about them tonight. Why?”
Michael appeared unsurprised by this revelation. “Do you want to see them?” he asked.
“You know who they are?” Sheppard’s world was falling to pieces and Michael had all the answers. That alone sent shivers down his spine. He hated needing someone, anyone. He didn’t know much, but he knew he was used to acting on his own.
Michael nodded. “I’ll take you to them tomorrow. You will stay with them, and you will not feed on them. Do you understand?”
Sheppard was confused. Why would he stay amongst the herd? That wasn’t right. And of course he wouldn’t feed on them. He wouldn’t do that to them. What kind of monster was… he?
It hit him. He was a monster. He looked down at his hands, inspecting the slits in the center of each palm. Whereas before, he hadn’t given them a second thought, now they seemed like monstrosities. “What’s wrong with me?” he whispered.
Michael sighed and pulled him into his room. “Rest,” he ordered. “Everything will be made clear tomorrow.”
Sheppard stumbled into Michael’s rumpled bed, absorbed in his questions. He didn’t notice Michael sitting in a chair, watching him as he idled the night, thinking.
“Wear this,” Michael ordered, handing him a neat pile of blue/grey clothes.
“What are these?” Sheppard inspected the black t-shirt like it was going to bite him.
“Just do it.” Patience was not always one of Michael’s virtues.
Sheppard reluctantly shucked his long leather coat and pants. Yes, they were starting to feel weird on him, but they were the only clothes he knew. The new shirt fit him perfectly, and the pants slid on much more comfortably than he had expected. Maybe these human clothes wouldn’t be so bad after all. The short jacket added the final touch.
“I feel like a human,” he joked. Michael didn’t seem to think it was all that funny.
They walked to the landing bay where Michael seated himself in a dart and told Sheppard to wait for him. Once the dart was in the air, the white beam descended over Sheppard, and they were gone.
Michael landed on the nearest planet with a Stargate, and rematerialized Sheppard. Fortunately, the stunner did not affect Wraith physiology like a human’s, and Sheppard was left only mildly dizzy for a few minutes. Once he had regained his bearings, they approached the DHD.
Michael dialed an address that Sheppard thought looked familiar. The blue wormhole opened and Michael tapped a familiar radio in his ear. “Dr. Weir,” he called.
“Michael?” came a surprised voice.
“It is indeed.” Michael confirmed.
“What do you want?” she demanded. She sounded like a tough woman. Sheppard thought it was odd that he should be admiring something in a human.
“I have Sheppard,” at this, Michael’s eyes locked on Sheppard, watching his reactions to the conversation. “He wants to return.”
“And what do you want?” Weir demanded.
Michael smiled. “I want to let him, of course. I know you do not trust me, Dr. Weir, and I will not ask you to. I will leave this planet and Sheppard will remain. Feel free to lower the shield for him, or pick him up at your leisure. Or leave him entirely, I don’t care which.” Michael grinned at Sheppard as he said this, lest he panic. Fortunately, Sheppard seemed to understand what Michael was doing and was not alarmed.
“Why would you do that?” Weir asked a lot of questions, Sheppard thought.
“Because my task is complete. I am going now. His future is in your hands.” With that, the wormhole closed and Michael turned to Sheppard. “I am leaving now. They’ll come for you.”
With that, Michael walked off, leaving Sheppard to wonder what was going to happen to him. Why had Weir’s voice sounded so familiar?