Ronon steps warily to the side of the different members of the Guard. He was once a well-respected Specialist, but seven years as a runner can change a man. He isn't sure he'll ever be welcomed back into the ranks – too used to acting on instinct and emotion instead of calmly carrying out orders without question. That's why Kell has banished him to the training quarter of the city with the other novices and rejects.
After taking down five of Commander Kolya's best men, Ronon tires of this place and the long stares it earns him. He sets off for the cafeteria, forcing himself not to look at any of his fellow soldiers as he passes them in the halls.
When he arrives, Ronon is glad that he chose this time to eat. General Cowen and Teyla Emmagen are dining tucked away in one corner of the cafeteria, near the high stained-glass windows. They attract enough attention so that Ronon is not the focus of the harsh whispers.
He piles his plate high and settles down, not watching the two leaders as the rest of the diners, but instead scanning the crowd. His eyes light upon one woman specifically. At first he thinks that it might be the first stirrings of attraction since Melena, but then he notices something about her movements – the precise motion of her hands even though her eyes do not leave the head table, the way her hair seems to flow in one coordinated motion, without a strand out of place, the perfection of her skin, the lack of art in her smile.
Then she moves, so fast that Ronon barely has time to act, throwing himself out of his chair and on top of her, just as a burst of energy goes flying forth from her hand, scorching the wall just above the general's head.
Every weapon in the place is drawn and firing, by the time Ronon throws himself off her, and it is enough to break up the nano-machines that make up her kind for just long enough for someone to activate the dispersion shield that is designed to break an Asuran into a million tiny pieces.
Cowen is being hurried from the scene by his personal guard, but Teyla Emmagen, looking even more beautiful than legend, moves gracefully towards him, drawing his head down for the traditional Athosian hug, touching their heads together. "What is your name?" she asks.
"Specialist Ronon Dex."
"I must thank you, Ronon, for saving myself and the general's lives. Have you been briefed about the nature of this city, and Ancestors, who once inhabited it?"
"Just got here," Ronon grunts. Then for no reason, he adds, "I was a runner."
Teyla does not frown at the news like the others, instead smiling serenely. "I am charged with a great task, Ronon Dex – an expedition beyond the stars. My military forces will be Genii, but I believe we could use a man with instincts as well-honed as yours."
Ronon pauses, considering. "I'll think about it."
What awaits for them on the other side is nothing like Teyla was imagining. Commander Kolya and his strike team move their equipment through with ease, but the dark grey walls and the advanced but alien technology do not seem to fit the open vaulting architecture of Atlantis and the Ancestors.
Ronon is stalking far ahead of her, and Teyla follows, ignoring Kolya's orders to stay back. Their mission, after all, is one of exploration, to find out what became of the Ancestors, not to strike out against a threat.
A quick search reveals a vast underground complex, which the gives the Genii no problems in setting up. And yet, no dialing device can be found, and Ladon claims that the technology is nothing like that found on Atlantis, and even those who have been given the Hothan Serum of the Ancestors cannot seem to make it come to life. The place is abandoned, and it soon becomes clear that they must head to the surface.
Teyla would like to go herself, but Commander Kolya insists that she stay well-guarded, his only concession to her is allowing Ronon Dex to tag along.
They emerge onto the surface to find a single path of footprints leading off the concrete path. Whoever made them thought themselves clever in hiding, but Ronon is a skilled tracker, and he knows better.
Commander Kolya follows reluctantly behind, whispering in Ronon's ear. "I know that that Teyla Emmagen believes you to be of use to our expedition, but you stick close and you follow my orders, or I'll shoot you myself."
Ronon forces himself to nod and straighten. There was a time, when he was on the run, where he might've killed a man for that kind of insult, but now he lowers his head and continues down along the trail.
At the end of it, they find an elaborate network of used food tins and sticks, the most obvious of early warning systems. A sleeper is very clearly visible in a cave nearby, wearing some sort of bright orange garment for warmth, with his face smashed down into the leaves in a way that cannot be comfortable. It's practically a bull's-eye for anyone looking to find the man.
Kolya rolls his eyes, as the Genii forces spread out to surround the man. Once the circuit is complete, he reaches forward and rings the string of tin cans as loudly as he can.
The man shoots straight up out of his pile of leaves, revealing that he is slightly pudgy and balding, with grumpy blue eyes. "What! Huh? Coffee? I'm up. Who the hell are you?"
Kolya and his soldiers raise their weapons, but the man looks just about as threatening as the pet tanta bird Ronon kept as a child. He steps forward, rattling some more tin cans. "I am Specialist Ronon Dex and this is Commander Kolya. We have come through the Ring, in search of the Ancestors."
The plump orange man sticks out a hand. It takes Ronon a while to figure out that he is supposed to grasp it. "Rodney McKay. Doctor Rodney McKay."
"Nice to meet you, Doctor McKay," Kolya replies, "Now, if you'd please tell us where we might find the Ancestors . . ."
"Who's Ancestors?" McKay asks, plopping down on a log and holding his face in his hands. "This is not happening."
"Our Ancestors. The ones who created us, built the Rings that allow travel between worlds, created Atlantis."
"Atlantis?" McKay perks up, standing. "You mean the Ancients? The gate builders?"
"Yes, if that is what you call them here."
"Well, I hate to break it to you, but they're long gone – mediated themselves into glowing balls of light and left us all behind. Good riddance, I say . . . of course we could use their knowledge in fighting the Ori . . . that's why I'm here, actually, looking for Ancient technology. Now, if you'd just let me go . . ."
Of course, that's when the real army of this world decides to surround them.
Teyla is upset. "Half a day on this world and already, Commander Kolya has found an enemy to engage. Trust the Genii to find war, wherever they go."
"Yep," Ronon replies, surprised by her anger.
"So the commander has been captured?" she asks.
"Yes, along with ten of our men and a native man who appeared willing to help us."
Teyla nods. "It is a great loss." Years fighting the Wraith have taught them all to mourn those taken in battle, without the thought that they can be saved, but the Wraith are defeated now, and Ronon is resentful. He survived for seven years when his people thought him dead. Kolya is a resourceful man and Ronon is not willing to give up on him just yet.
"It doesn't have to be. Let me take a team. We don't know anything about this enemy – the Ori, they called themselves – men with skills like those on the path to Ascension."
Ronon thinks about the hard glint in the clouded white eyes, the way the prior brought his staff down hard on the man in the orange, relishing in the fact that they had ‘finally caught' him. The Ancestors were supposed to be kind and compassionate. "I don't think so."
Teyla sighs. "Very well. Take ten men. If you have not returned by sunrise, we will leave through the Ring to another world in this galaxy."
Ronon nods. He can do this. He knows he can.
The people are chanting, "Hallowed are the Ori, hallowed are the Ori." Ronon does not know what ‘hallowed' means, but he is sure that he will never believe in Gods that burn those who chose not to believe.
The ‘prior' stands calmly at the head of the crowd, his eyes clouded and his skin as pale as a Wraith's. He is not the most terrifying enemy that Ronon has ever faced, but he appears to be the most powerful. Ronon sees why these people believe – he can do things that it is rumored that only those on the path to Ascension are capable of. Even the loud native – McKay – is kneeling at the Prior's feet, screeching out silent imprecations, silenced only by the glowing staff.
The prior nods and one of the local women, wearing a red apron with a symbol that looks like two golden arches embroidered on it, leans down and lights a fire. From where Ronon is perched on top of a glass and metal building (more advanced than even Sateda), it is clear that there is no way he can save Commander Kolya. Ronon takes a deep breath, meeting the commander's sharp brown eyes. He takes the shot.
"We must activate the ring, now!" Teyla shouts, looking over Ladon's shoulder anxiously as he tries to make sense of the alien script on the screen of the machine they have finally managed to operate. There is a picture of the Ring on the screen, but the symbols are unfamiliar and the interface in a language that they do not understand.
"How do we know which one is the home symbol?" Ladon shouts, struggling to be hear over the ricochet of bullets and energy weapons down the long corridor leading up to the Ring.
"Is there a database of worlds?" Teyla asks, looking nervously down into the room below, where the majority of their scientists are gathered, their equipment strapped to their backs, the food provisions forgotten.
Ladon is still hammering away at the interface when Ronon Dex comes tumbling in, looking flushed and breathless.
"What happened?" Teyla demands.
"We founds some advanced beings. Kolya asked if they were the Ancestors. They are not. Tried to use a staff to infect me with some sort of plague. Didn't work and the guy caught it instead. But they have traditional weapons, too – they followed us."
Teyla nods, noting that Ladon has found a list of symbols. "Commander Kolya?"
Teyla spares only a second to grab his shoulder, in support as well as grief. Despite their disagreements, Acastus Kolya did not deserve to die.
"I've got it!" Ladon shouts, alarms blaring as symbols appear on the screen, one by one, the ring actually physically spinning before jumping to life.
Teyla grabs Ladon by the forearm and drags him down the stairs. "Who is he?" Teyla asks about the man that Sora and Ignatus are dragging through the Ring. She has never seen a garment quite so bright orange before.
"A native," Ronon replies, before pushing both her and Ladon through the Ring.
On the other side, they face a circle of villages, a man with bone-white skin and a staff standing before them, a glowing staff in hand.
At her side, Ronon grumbles, "That looks like the guy."
After the Ring deactivates, the villagers and the man still stand there passively in a clearing surrounded by trees exactly like the familiar forests of Athos. And yet, here, everything is different.
"Hallowed are the Ori," the cloaked figure says.
"The Ori?" Teyla asks, before Ronon attempts to stop her.
That causes the villagers to murmur.
"You have not heard of Origin?" the man with the staff asks.
"No. I am afraid we have traveled here from afar." Teyla does her best to be diplomatic, noticing the man in the orange inch towards the dialing device out of the corner of her eye.
The blank white eyes of the robed man seem to light up. "From afar? Where the people have not been blessed with the teachings of Origin?"
Teyla has believed in the Ancestors all her life, and Origin . . . it sounds as though it might be part of that mystery of how the Ancestors seeded the galaxy and why. Yet, Commander Kolya is dead, and Ronon looks murderous. Teyla has a bad feeling about this.
The native is almost at the dialing device now.
"Perhaps you could explain the teachings to us further," Teyla says, trying to distract the preacher.
"We promise the secrets of Ascension," the man says, "you must only believe." And Teyla is tempted, oh so tempted.
But then, "Enough!" the man with the pale face yells, stomping the staff once on the ground. The native goes flying into the air, to land in a crumpled heap. Sora is upon him, trying to help, as the ring flashes to life, vaporizing two of the soldiers that had been standing in front of it.
"Foolish man, trying to dial Earth," the man in white says. "I will complete the task for you. There you might find lawlessness or you might find death. Stay here, and learn the teachings of Origin and you will be saved. In the book, there is a parable. A line is drawn in the sand. All you must do is step across."
Teyla nods, getting up and running towards the Ring.
"Shoot the Gate!" the man in the orange yells from where Sora is helping him to stand. Teyla doesn't know why, but she trusts him, grabbing Ronon's weapon from his holster before firing and ducking through.
Ronon is expecting to find more Ori worshipers or maybe soldiers on the other side of the Ring, not a short man in a fuzzy white jacket, with hair just as fuzzy. "Rodney?" the man shouts, followed by what Ronon can only guess is swearing in a language he cannot understand. "What is this? Who are these people?"
Most of the expedition makes it through (clearly the Prior did not know about the effect of an energy blast on the Ring), but they are surrounded by guards in spotted green outfits, holding weapons like those of the Genii, only sleeker.
Ronon keeps his weapon up, as do all of the soldiers, herding the scientists into the middle of their protective huddle. There are eighty of them and maybe fifteen people in green, but nobody is moving to shoot so far, and Teyla is stepping forward, bowing her head. "I am Teyla Emmagen, daughter of Tagan and leader of the Athosian people."
"I am Dr. Radek Zelenka, of Earth. Um . . . welcome to the Lost City research station." He gestures around to familiar vaulting architecture, faded to a dull blue, the ground frozen and white.
"It's cold here," Ronon remarks.
"Yeah, well, that's what happens at the South Pole. These people are from another galaxy, Radek. They're from Atlantis."
The fuzzy man swears again, this time his eyes wide with amazement.
Eventually, they find out that they are in a place called Antarctica, in a base built by the Ancestors. They are shielded from the Priors by a device that puts them ‘out of phase,' as Rodney McKay puts it. The technology of the Earth people is advanced to a certain degree, but it's nothing compared to the treasures of Atlantis. Ronon's resistance to the ‘plague' of the priors, combined with all of the knowledge gained while fighting the Wraith, along with information about Ascended beings (like the Ori, apparently), means that they have greatly increased the chances for the people of this galaxy in overthrowing the tyranny of their oppressors.
While Teyla knows that she will have to rely on Rodney and the other local people for food and finding their way around the galaxy, she is confident that they will both be able to find more technology to help fight against the Asurans (for these people have faced similar enemies before), and her expedition will be able to assist these people in their fight against the Ori. She has taken over running of this base, after finding out that along with the few military personnel that were guarding the Ring and a handful of Earth scientists, it is largely abandoned. Only those conducting their research here were able to survive the Ori. The rest of the population is either dead or worshipping the enemy.
It soon becomes clear that Antarctica is a very barren and isolated place – and the only way to reach the second Ring here is to send for Earth and shoot the Ring with an energy weapon. Teyla allows Ronon to assemble his own scouting team for first contact. It consists of Ronon, Ladon, Rodney McKay (despite his many complaints), and Sora, Kolya's second in command.
So far, they have managed to track Sora to this planet, with its steaming jungle and its strange purple soil. Some of the Tau'ri have attempted to assure him that something of the host survives – that if they can capture her alive, some of their once-allies will be able to extract the parasite. Ronon wants to believe them, as Sora was a friend and a member of their team, but he also knows the stakes. With all she knows, she cannot be allowed to unite with the other Ba'als and tell them what she knows of their hidden base.
Ladon assures him that the planet they have tracked her to stores energy in the strange soil at such a frequency that disables the power of the Priors. It also disables their Ancestor's scanning equipment. The team splits up to cover more ground. Ronon takes McKay and heads off in one direction, leaving Ladon with some of the Genii soldiers.
They have not made it far when they hear the high wine of a zat gun (as McKay calls it), spring out of the bushes. Ronon has only enough time to be surprised that they've actually been captured before he loses consciousness.
When he wakes up, McKay is already complaining about rough treatment and chafing on his bindings. Ronon turns his head to where McKay is directing his whining, to find a man – no taller, nor fiercer than any of the Tau'ri, but with a hard glint to his hazel eyes. His hair is a dark matted mess, and a scraggly beard obscures what Ronon can tell were once handsome features.
Ronon is pissed, and grunts his displeasure.
"Yes, yes, you Tarzan, he bad evil captor. Now, seriously, for the thousandth time, we're not Ori worshipers, so will you please untie me before lack of circulation causes permanent damage to my hands."
"Tarzan?" the man asks, stepping out of the shadows, weapon still trained on them.
"Big illiterate ape-man, raised by monkeys . . . not particularly relevant, so long as I'm still tied up!" McKay continues to rant.
"I know who Tarzan is," the man says. "And I think he was raised by gorillas, not monkeys. You're from Earth?"
"I am. He's . . ."
"I'm from Sateda. You won't have heard of it."
"Another galaxy," McKay and his big mouth explains.
"Yeah?" the man asks. "The Ori are from another galaxy, aren't they?"
"No, not that one! Are you going to untie us, or are you going to pick up a volleyball and start talking to it instead?"
The man laughs. "Still don't know that you're not worshiping the Ori. Though if I were them, I might not like having you pray to me. . ." he kicks McKay a little with his boot – the way Ronon does when he wants him to shut up.
"Yes, well, it's only because a genius like myself is far too intelligent to believe all that cultish . . ."
"We're not here to harm you," Ronon interrupts. "We're looking for a girl. She's not herself and we need to help her."
"Wait," McKay says. "How do we know that you're not an Ori worshiper?"
"Because I'm covered in dirt, living in a cave on an alien planet where Priors can't visit? Also, I have the gun."
"Wait . . ." McKay snaps his fingers. "You have the gene!"
"Gene?" Ronon asks.
"You know the thing you take the Serum of the Ancestors for? Well, some people in the Milky Way have it naturally. They're both able to operate Ancient . . . Ancestor's technology and more likely to Ascend. The Ori hunt them down in order to kill them off."
"Like Terminator," the strange man remarks.
"Only, so completely not!" McKay squeals.
It devolves into an argument that Ronon has trouble following. So he interrupts. "So, the Priors can track you."
The man nods.
"Well, you could come back with us. Priors can't track you ‘out of phase.'"
"Out of phase?"
McKay launches into one of his long explanations, which Ronon ignores.
The man looks skeptical. "Why should I trust you?"
"McKay, why should he trust us?"
"Because I'm always right," McKay replies.
After a while, the man nods, untying them. The second he's out of his bindings, Ronon grabs the man by his throat, snatches his weapon and shoots him.
"What'd you do that for!" McKay squeals. "A natural gene carrier could be very useful!"
Ronon shrugs, standing and lifting the guy of his shoulders. He kinda smells. "Not taking any chances."
Later, when the guy (John Sheppard), wakes up in their brig, he's notably upset. But after Ladon and McKay fashion him a device that hides him from the Priors, his knowledge of Ori tactics and his ability to use the technology of the Ancestors to a much more extensive degree than those who have taken the Serum means that he makes a useful member of their team – even if he is a little clumsy.