: Enemy of My EnemiesAuthor
: Jedi ButtercupRating
: The words are mine; the world is not.Summary
: Ronon is hunted by a Predator. Just as well he's had plenty of practice at this kind of thing.
: Pre-series for SGA; general Predator-verseNotes
: For the anonymous request used as the summary in Multiverse 2011.
Every twenty worlds or so, as he moves from planet to planet, Ronon finds evidence of Wraith killed by hands that aren't his. Shot, mostly, and beheaded, though the corpses are usually pretty old by the time he finds them, so it can be kind of hard to pick out details. They reek even worse in death than they do in life, and that's saying something.
He never finds the heads. Or the weapons. Just the bodies-- occasionally still wrapped in the remains of their armor, more often skinned-- broken as they have broken so many others. Ronon figures the one responsible for another like him, and doesn't begrudge the kills; though each one down is one less for Ronon to slay in vengeance, he applauds the craft and viciousness of his counterpart.
Not the trophies, though. What use does a warrior exiled from home have for so many Wraith skulls, anyway?
Whatever; it's none of Ronon's business. What is
his business is that he finds slain Wraith more often on hot planets, the ones where he breaks into a sweat the moment he steps through the Ring of the Ancestors. Especially the ones where thick trees and plentiful streams provide no relief from the baking sun overhead and the air is almost wet enough to drink. He knows better than to let his travels fall into patterns, but he finds himself lingering longer than usual on such planets all the same. Call it curiosity, or maybe a vague hope that they're marginally safer than other worlds. They're usually empty or lightly inhabited, anyway, and that's enough justification if he ever needs one.
It's on one of these, an address he visits every so often when he needs a bolthole somewhere uninvolved humans won't trip over him, that he finally crosses the path of the mysterious trophy collector in person. The headless Wraith corpse sprawled half a dozen spans from the Ring is still warm, its ichor tacky to the touch when he kneels to examine it. The markings on its armor don't match the signature of the hive that hunts him, but the story told by the placement of its wounds has become familiar enough all on its own.
The Hunter was here.
The fine hairs stand up on the back of Ronon's neck, and he raises his head for a quick scan of the forest canopy around him. Instinct tells him that whoever killed the Wraith must still be on the planet... and long, hard-won experience suggests that he's probably being watched from a covert position. He sits back on his heels, rising to a crouch, and lets his hand drift to the butt of his sidearm as he checks out the most likely places for an overwatch perch. If it had been him
laying a trap for any Wraith that might have followed the one he'd just killed....
Leaves rustle here and there in a languid breeze, not even enough to stir the bound locks of his hair, but enough to distract the eye. It occurs to him then that he'd been subconsciously assuming the enemy of his enemies must be his friend, a stupid thing to do considering his own past experience.
A shimmering shape suddenly shifts against a tree trunk several feet in the air, and Ronon's attention is immediately drawn to the anomaly. If he hadn't already been on guard, he might have dismissed the visual disturbance as his eyes playing tricks on him, but his nerves are jangling now too fiercely to ignore. He narrows his eyes, squinting as he shifts sideways to put a broad branch between his body and the cloaked presence, and is rewarded by a blurred movement and the shaking of the branch at its base as though a heavy weight had launched into the air using it as a springboard.
He's never seen anything like it. That doesn't stop him from reacting, though. On the run from the Wraith, pausing for the unexpected can get you killed.
He ducks behind the nearest tree, whisks his sidearm from its holster and a knife from its sheath at the small of his back, then draws a deep breath, sinking into silence. Whatever tech the other is using to make him, her, or itself invisible, he doesn't dare assume that's the only advantage it has. It can probably see better than Ronon does. Hear better than he can. And from the wounds left behind on the Wraith corpses he's found, it has better weapons than he does, too.
A faint rustle draws his attention, off to the left; a trio of red dots appear on the tree bark beside him, and Ronon ducks, rolling out of the way as he lifts his gun. Splinters erupt from the bark, peppering his exposed skin with sharp pinpricks as he scuttles beneath a bush and toward the nearby creek; his return fire smacks futilely against an empty branch.
Very briefly, though, he sees another shimmer along the path of his shots. A staticky web of energy outlines a tall form: the shielding cloak the hunter is wearing fades briefly, showing him an armored humanoid, neither Ronon's kind nor Wraith. It has some kind of weapon on its shoulder, a mask over its face, and bound-back locks similar to Ronon's; it prods at its arm and then shimmers back out of view. There is a brief scuff of noise, and then all is still once more.
So. It can
be unmasked; and that which requires a mask can be harmed. All Ronon has to do is live long enough to make it happen.
He bares his teeth fiercely and crouches low against the damp ground. It'll have to move again eventually. And whatever its advantages, Ronon has one of his own: plenty of practice hunting things stronger and deadlier than he is. There's a reason he's still alive, so many years after leaving Sateda.
May the best warrior win.
Either way, the Wraith still lose.