Chapter Forty-Two: Remnants

Tuesday, 8th August 2000.

Harry sighed as he entered the command for the twentieth time since lunch, leaning heavily on the console in front of him as he watched the stargate over the top of that same console. The chevrons glowed briefly before flashing twice to indicate a failed connection.

"Are you going to keep trying that forever?" Hermione asked, her voice coming from behind him, but Harry did not turn, instead keying the other address in and watching as the same result came back again.

"Should I just give up?" He asked, leaning back in the chair and running his fingers through his hair in frustration.

"Of course not. But mum said that the Asgard should hopefully be able to swing by personally and see what's happening early next week." Hermione said, taking the seat beside him at the controls and staring at him.

"I know. But I feel useless just sitting here waiting for someone else to solve things."

"Ok. We'll disconnect Aurora from Vir and head back now. We can be there by Friday. Then what?" Hermione asked, trying to catch his eye.

Harry swung to face her, understanding exactly what she was getting at. "I know, ok. It's highly unlikely to be an attack. Merlin would have dialled out immediately to inform us. And no one assaulting Earth would know where Aether is, nor be able to penetrate its passive defences enough to bury the stargate. And anything less than that would not prevent us from connecting…"

"But everyone you know and love is on that planet. And you are terrible at sitting still when you know people are in danger." She summarised and Harry tried not to catch her eye, knowing that her assessment was entirely correct. "Harry. I'm not upset. As frustrating as it can be to see it in action, when it puts you in danger, your innate desire to save other people is one of the traits I love most about you. You care so deeply about almost everyone you meet. Unless they give you cause not to. It's inspiring."

"It's exhausting." He said, crossing his arms over his chest in frustration.

"Well, if you're exhausted, we could always take a nap." She suggested, with a smile as she reached out and laced her fingers with his nearest hand.

"Thanks, but I don't really fancy snuggling on those bunks right now." He said, picturing the rather small bed in the quarters they had taken nearest to the control centre.

"Good. Neither do I." She said, standing and pulling Harry to his feet.

"I'm not finished." He groaned, half-heartedly.

"Dialling Earth over and over is pointless. You'll just drain the new potentia trying, and we might need that power before too long."

"I wasn't just dialling. I've had the city scanners working with Vir to get a more detailed scan of Lantea and the rest of the star system. Figure out what sort of resources and environment we're working with if hiding doesn't work." He argued as Hermione carefully led him down the stairs, but she did not turn towards the barracks they had taken, instead leading him to the transport cabinet tucked under the stairs that lead down to the stargate. "Where are we going?"

Hermione smiled at him as she pulled him into the cabinet and triggered it quickly before he could see where she indicated. "You'll see. Did you find anything good?"

Harry gave a frustrated sigh and shook his head at Hermione's odd behaviour. "Yes, actually. There is one intact Defence Satellite out at the L2 Lagrange point of Religast, but it's reading as completely dead." He said, barely paying attention to where his girlfriend was blindly leading him. "Which is weird as I thought that an object at L2 had to maintain its position dynamically, but I guess the Lanteans figured something out. There is a crashed Wraith ship giving off a very weak distress call somewhere on Religast though. Might be worth a look.

"And shortly before you arrived, there was a strong result in the ocean. A crashed Wraith Cruiser appearing to be of the same design as those on the way is half-buried in the seafloor about two hundred kilometres to the south."

"Excellent. We should probably give both ships a look over tomorrow." Hermione said, coming to a stop outside of the only door visible in the corridor they were in.

"What's this?" Harry asked and Hermione just smiled and pushed him over to the door. He gave her a sideways glance before he triggered the door and stepped inside the dark room. The moment he did, lights came on and he found himself in a large apartment.

"I figured we'll be staying here for a bit. At the rate things are going, probably be a month at least. It would be nice to have a proper place to call our own." Hermione said, walking past him, heading for the large couch with a wide Lantean screen on the wall nearby.

Harry was speechless. The room was even grander than the one they shared back in Aedis. Though it had a similar wraparound floor-to-ceiling window that stretched around the entire northern wall. The view wasn't as bright as the one they had on Verda, where it looked out on the distant mountains and three bright moons, while currently, all he could see were the city lights glowing in the darkness this far down under the water's surface, given the late hour as well.

"What do you think?" Hermione asked, sounding nervous at his lack of response.

Harry smiled and turned to her. "It's magnificent. Is this what you've been doing all day?"

"The last two days, actually. Among other things. It took a while to reorganize the matter correctly."

Harry walked over and joined her on the couch, and Hermione immediately cuddled into his side. "Is that so? What was here before you remodelled?"

"Just some empty lab space. I made similar ones for everyone else, too. But ours has the best view." She said, looking up at him.

Harry couldn't help but laugh at her behaviour now. It seemed she just wanted to spend some time alone with him, as well as distract him from the problems back in Avalon.

"You know me too well, Hermione." He said, pulling her closer and allowing himself to relax. She was right, worrying and constantly trying to dial Earth wouldn't solve either problem.

"I've been looking further into the databanks here and on Aurora as well while things were integrating," Hermione mentioned. "I'm still trying to nail things down exactly, but the logs are kind of weird in both systems."

Harry nodded against her wild hair, considering her words as he let his worries lessen. "We can both have a look together a bit later if you like." He replied quietly.

"Sounds good," Hermione said, turning her head slightly and pressing a kiss to his cheek.

Harry smiled. He was very glad that Hermione was here with him. He knew that he'd be a wreck if she was one of their number trapped on Earth. He doubted any number of living Lanteans would have been enough to prevent him from aiming Vir directly for Earth and rushing blindly to her aid.

Instead, she was safely here in his arms. Helping to keep him from overreacting and rushing in blindly. They needed more information. On so many things right now.


Wednesday, 9th August 2000.

Luna raised her orange training blaster as the small team beamed into place in a large empty corridor. A concession the group had made to her normal restrictions given their limited personnel and the fact their spacesuits could absorb a few shots from the lower-powered weapon just fine if Isis somehow managed to steal control of her body momentarily.

She and Harry were staring one way, while she knew Hermione and Neville would be facing the other. The normal black-coloured full-power versions in their hands. There was no sign of movement and Harry tapped his remote, quietly scanning for nearby life signs with the new subroutine and sensors incorporated into their gear from the handheld scanners they had found in the navis in the central tower hangar.

"Nothing showing up." He said, his face covered in the suit's bubble field as were the rest of them, unsure as they were as to whether a ship so long underwater would have any breathable atmosphere.

"We should still be careful anyway," Hermione added and Harry pinched outwards on his remote as a small hologram appeared in the air above his arm.

"Agreed," Neville added as Harry swiped the hologram up off his arm and into the air between himself and Luna, an emitter near his shoulder maintaining the image at a comfortable distance where they could all see it clearly.

"Alright. If the scan is accurate, the bridge should be this way." He added and the four began slowly walking through the corridor.

Luna felt her eyes drifting over the walls. They were eerily organic, looking like dark muscle covered in a deep red fleshy webbing, almost seeming to pulse around them as they walked. It felt like something out of a muggle horror movie. While the floor felt as solid as stone, the very shape of the design was unsettling to her. Though she wasn't entirely sure it was just her that was unsettled.

She had been keeping Isis suppressed since they had left Aedis. In the days before they had departed, the symbiote had been extremely unruly, trying to harm Luna again even though her efforts came to naught. So Luna was keeping her locked in a dark room in her mind with no source of information or entertainment as punishment. But she could still feel unease flowing off the mind within her own. Growing with every step they took within the ship.

It took several minutes to reach what the scans had indicated might be the bridge, but there was a door sealed before them that looked awful. It had several angular bone-like supports stretched horizontally across it in perverse W-shapes, meeting at a similar thick seam in the centre. Between the bones was a fleshy, semi-translucent webbing similar to a bat's wing. Hermione stepped forwards and it took her several tense minutes to figure out how to open the door.

It retreated sickeningly into the walls and they saw into the bridge itself. There were still no signs of life aboard, and the quartet entered cautiously. Harry stood guard by the door as Neville and Hermione stepped over to the odd consoles that seemed to grow out of the very floor.

Some were membrane-like hammocks held between two uprights, very similar to the doors. While others looked like some awful fungus growth extending out of the floor and blooming out to chitinous desktops with dangerous-looking implements and controls built into the surface.

"I really don't like it here, guys. This place makes me feel sick." Luna noted as Harry turned to give her a supportive smile.

"I don't like it either," He said, softly, "but we'd be crazy not to inspect it. Find out if there are any obvious clues that can help us choose how to handle the incoming ships."

"I know." She replied. "I don't know what it is, but it's bothering Isis too. I can feel her twitching in the back of my neck. And she is screaming up a storm in my mind. It's very disconcerting."

Harry looked very concerned at that. They had agreed she needed a weapon for this excursion, just in case they found something aboard, but she was still without a mini. And Luna was certain that she had Isis tightly locked away for now, but she could see the concern on his face.

"She's not getting control. You can check if you like." She said, showing him the blue gem in her headband. "But something about this place irks her, big time."

"I've got the schematics," Hermione said from over at one of the consoles. "Not that it was easy. This system seems to only want to respond to some special form of input. If I had to guess, it's similar to the gene required to run most Lantean tech. Magic helps force a way in though."

"What have we got?" Harry asked, looking carefully at Luna before turning to look down the corridor outside again.

"I can get us to the hyperdrive, that should be the first priority so we can better calculate how long they'll take. Weapons as well, but I can't find anything that resembles shields. And apparently, the section that contains the sublight engines is flooded. We aren't inspecting that today."

"Neville?" Harry asked.

"I've got samples of everything in here. We should be good to move on." Neville replied. "This place weirds me out."

"Ok. Can you send me the layout?" Harry asked Hermione, who tapped several commands into her remote and the hologram Harry was projecting shimmered as more detail began to show around what the small scanner had been able to detect. It almost looked to Luna like removing the Fog of War on one of the video games she'd been playing lately. "Good work. Let's check out the hyperdrive."

Luna swallowed heavily as Harry slowly led them out of the creepy room. It was several more minutes of walking, stopping temporarily at six of the icky membrane doors before they reached the hyperdrive itself.

"Oh, that is just gross," Hermione said as the door opened and they saw the structure inside.

Several more consoles protruded from the floor underneath a giant fleshy uvula with a glowing orange centre that pulsed slowly, almost like it was breathing, but at an incredibly slow rate.

"How about we make this quick?" Harry said, taking his place at the door as Hermione and Neville got to work once again, nodding their agreement.

Luna gripped her pistol tightly in both hands, trying to settle herself as she felt Isis moving even worse than before. The way the symbiote shifted under her skin was extremely disconcerting. It was the most disgusting thing she had ever felt, and that included what she was seeing around her now.

A thick feeling of dread was slowly welling up in her chest and Luna was worried that the others might have been right. That Isis was somehow taking advantage of her altered state of mind by being exposed to this horrid sight to try an alternative approach into her mind.

She double-checked that the safety on her weapon was active and glanced at Harry, who was watching her out of the corner of his eye.

Suddenly they both started as a small red blip appeared on the hologram shimmering in the air between the two of them.

The two locked eyes as they realized that the blip was moving in a room very close to their current position. Luna looked at Harry's face and he brought a finger to his mouth, tapping behind his ear once and pointing at the others behind him, indicating he had silently informed them of their new visitor. He gave her a slight nod and turned back to watch the shifting blip as it slowly moved away from them.

Once it was several corridors down, Luna gave a start as Hermione gently placed her hand on her shoulder. "Please don't do that." Luna hissed, her heart thrumming almost in time with the twitching symbiote.

"Sorry. We're done. Where is it?" Hermione whispered in return and Harry turned so Neville and Hermione could see the hologram.

"We should leave," Neville advised.

"We should see what it is." Harry countered and they could see the blip moving around the bridge before it obviously stormed out, heading in another direction, though not down the same path they had taken to get here.

Harry glanced up at the three of them and his eyes clearly showed his question. Luna sighed before she nodded in agreement. If this was one of these Wraith, it could be beneficial to speak with one. Perhaps take it prisoner. It had also likely been trapped down here for ten thousand years, and figuring out how anything could survive that long with no food was worth studying.

Hermione and Neville nodded and Harry turned back, watching where the blip was headed now.

"That should be life support," Hermione whispered as they tracked the blip's movement. "Maybe it knows that someone is aboard, but not where."

Harry nodded and made a show of setting his weapon to the stun setting, obviously suggesting they all copy him. If they could take it alive, good.

"If not, don't hesitate to change." He said softly to Neville and Hermione, clearly finishing Luna's thought. With her training blaster, the best she could do was stun.

They moved silently through the hallways, keeping a careful eye on the blip as it shifted from room to room. As they got closer, they noticed a pale fog seeping out of the floor all around them and Luna was very glad for the suits and their enchantments. The others seemed to notice as well, and all four activated the personal shield incorporated into this newest design. One that had proven powerful enough to stop even a full-power shot from their blasters.

Harry gestured for them to stop as they approached the blip. It had just headed into a large empty space near the middle of the ship's belly that seemed to lead towards the wing which was buried deep in the silt of the ocean floor. He indicated for Neville and Hermione to cover the door, and that he and Luna would move in and try to take the figure down. Without a word, he shut off the hologram and pulled his wand. Giving each of them a quick tap on their heads, before doing himself as well.

All four of them slowly disappeared as the disillusionment charm took effect. Luna shuddered at the normally slimy feeling which was amplified a hundredfold by both the agitated symbiote and her horrifying surroundings. She took a steadying breath and slowly moved over to the doorway that whatever they were following had left wide open.

She could barely see the shimmering outline of Harry as he moved inside and Hermione took up his place at the edge of the door. She followed suit, knowing that Neville had now taken her place and she carefully knelt by the wall on the inside of the room. It appeared to be a massive hangar, but there were no ships inside.

The crisscrossing walkways looked like muscle fibres extending from all the walls. At the far end, she could see a dark figure marching purposefully back in their direction. With every step that drew it closer, she felt Isis becoming more and more agitated and at last she began to wonder if Isis was somehow feeling the presence of this creature.

Trying to ignore the nuisance in her neck, Luna took aim at the figure as it stepped onto the last of the fibrous bridges, walking up the narrow branch towards them. Without warning, a blast of pale blue energy shot out from its left and struck the figure dead on. Apparently, Harry had gotten much closer than she had and had opened fire on the figure.

It dropped to its belly, arms trying to keep it upright, almost like it was trying to do a pushup before Harry fired another shot and she once more identified his shimmering outline.

The figure rolled onto its back and roared at Harry, unable to see him with the charm in place, but clearly aware something was there. Luna wasted no more time and fired three shots from her weapon, each of the blue pulses rushing outwards and landing on the scowling figure. After the third impact, the figure stilled and Harry removed his disillusionment charm. At long last, Isis seemed to settle under her skin, no longer twitching in agitation, seemingly confirming Luna's assumption that it was this creature that had been bothering the symbiote.

Harry walked slowly over to the now still figure and Luna noticed a look of confusion and disgust on his features. Harry raised his weapon and fired twice more into its chest, ensuring that it was well and truly stunned. Luna slowly approached as Harry tucked his weapon away and drew his wand, waving it at the figure.

Luna finally got a good look at it as she approached and she now understood the face Harry had made. The figure was humanoid, that much was obvious at a distance, but this close, she could see the skin of the uncovered arms and face. It was a sickly pale green colour and Luna found it just set off every single alarm bell in her body to even look at it.

Getting closer still as Harry conjured thick ropes around the body, she saw the face in detail. It looked human enough to trigger any remaining discomfort that a human body could feel at seeing something close, but not quite right either. Deep blue markings ran up either side of its neck and onto its face where a pair of narrow but deep holes seemed to run into the flesh just an inch or so down from the eyes. The open yellow, animalistic eyes.

And just peering out from under the dark blue lips, she could see horridly sharp and slightly translucent teeth jutting out from both jaws. Whatever this creature was, it was a predator of the worst sort. She had the incredible urge to just end it now and save them all a lot of trouble later.

But she managed to squash the feeling down and she watched Harry securely bind it, wishing she had her own wand so that she might contribute to its confinement.

"What is that?" Neville asked, coming up behind her, his footsteps thankfully loud enough to keep him from giving her another heart attack like Hermione had earlier.

"My guess?" Harry said, levitating the bound creature with his wand. "The Wraith."

He gave Neville a cheeky smirk before he gestured for the others to lead the way out. He followed on behind, both his wand and weapon drawn again as he focused both on the trussed-up figure. Luna matched step with him, unable to turn her back on this monstrous being.

"Is it really wise to take it with us?" She asked quietly as Hermione led them through the maze-like flesh corridors again, this time heading for the area where the weapons were powered.

"Know thy enemy?" Harry offered weakly, keeping his eyes fixed on the creature in front of him.

She sighed and they continued in silence as Hermione helped guide them to their next destination. Once more, Harry perched in the doorway and watched as Hermione and Neville worked and Luna kept her gaze fixed on the creature floating in between them all. Isis had settled slightly once the figure had been subdued, but she was still uneasy and Luna shared that sentiment.

She began to feel an odd scratching at her mind, this time coming from the outside and she hardened her defences against it. Without warning, she fired three more blasts into the figure and the scratching stopped as the nightmarish figure went limp in the bindings.

The other three turned, startled at the sound of her weapon and she looked up and silently apologized. Hermione in particular had paled significantly, having seemed to assume that the monster was charging her or Neville.

It took them several more minutes to finish up their work before Hermione turned to face them, indicating that she was finished.

"Anything else while we're here?" Harry asked softly, though none of their remotes were detecting any more life signs.

"This should be enough for now," Hermione said nervously as she stood a few feet from the hovering figure.

Neville nodded his agreement as he set a few vulta loose to continue exploring the ship as they had with Exodium.

"Alright, bunch up," Harry said as he keyed his remote and the five of them were surrounded by beam energy.

A moment later they reappeared in a room Luna had not entered before and she watched as Harry removed the levitation charm from the figure and it dropped heavily to the floor of the small square enclosure. He gestured for them to leave the square boundary and he followed them out, ensuring he kept his weapon trained the entire way. When all four of them were in the space between the odd horizontal planks that made up the inner square and the solid walls of the outer limits of the room, Harry waved his hand over his remote and the nearby walls slid closed.

When the inner square closed, a flash of light filled the space between each set of planks from the bottom up and Luna could feel a charged energy field hovering between what she realized were the bars of their new brig.

"Everyone out. I'm going to seal the room completely for now." He turned to look at them, his eyes drifting to Neville for a moment. "Leave a couple of vulta inside, cloaked."

Neville nodded and pulled three more of the little orbs from his bag, setting them loose inside the room where they quickly took up positions watching the still figure in the cell.

After they all exited the room, a heavy door slid into place over the exit and Harry triggered the matter converter, sealing the door up as part of the wall itself. They would not take any chances with this prisoner. For now, it was staying put.

"I'm implementing a command. Opening that cell will require a majority vote from the council. Which at the moment, means a unanimous vote from all four of us. Just in case. I could feel something trying to get in my mind, and I don't want any of us succumbing and letting it out accidentally."

"Agreed." They all mirrored and gave approval for the command, cementing it in place.

"If you don't mind, I'm going to take a nice long soak. Hopefully, now Isis will settle down too." Luna said, handing her blaster to Hermione as she passed and giving the other girl a wry smirk. She felt dirty inside and out, and the image of those haunting corridors was filling her mind.


Saturday, 12th August 2000.

"How is the assessment coming?" Carson asked, climbing up the stairs in the back of the room as Hermione turned to face him with a smile.

"Faster with the city's resources." She replied as he sat nearby. "It seems that somehow the Lanteans never actually boarded one of these vessels. They have vague information about the design and the classifications they assigned them, but no details. So what we brought back is filling in the gaps."

"Does it help clarify our options?"

"A little. I've been able to narrow the window of arrival to a more precise time. They will arrive not next Tuesday, but the one after at about midday local time." She said, indicating a holographic chart showing the path they would take. "Turns out they aren't just slower, but they have to stop periodically. From what I can tell, their ships are biomechanical and have absolutely no shielding.

"So the radiation of the specific subspace channel that their hyperdrive uses damages their vessels to the point they need to exit and regenerate periodically. Which explains why they didn't try to chase the fleeing Lanteans. A trip through the void between galaxies with this system would be lethal to the ship long before they made it even halfway."

"That sounds inefficient."

"Tremendously. It makes me wonder how the Lanteans found them so overwhelming."

"Well, we haven't actually had a proper encounter with them yet. But the one you found in the sunken cruiser is showing some very interesting traits. The cells have none of the normal human inhibiting proteins at all."

Hermione turned to face him and smiled. "I'm still really new to medicine, Carson. I don't know what that means."

"Right, sorry. Basically, so long as they remain sufficiently nourished, they can regenerate just about any injury or illness. And I don't think these Wraith would ever succumb to natural aging as we humans do. Our guest, I'd put her age at more than eleven thousand years. But it's hard to know for certain. And if I had to guess, I'd theorize she has been starving for a long time."

"How do you know?"

Carson sighed for a moment. "She's dying. Her cells are still regenerating faster than ours would, but it's far slower than I estimate she is capable of."

"She?" Hermione asked.

"Aye. It's definitely a female. From the scans I took, they have a lot of similarities to bug species, so I'd wager it's a queen. Females are probably quite rare. And very dangerous."

"I'll say. She took ten stun blasts before finally going fully limp. I guess I'm starting to see some of the danger now. If the Wraith are that resilient, maybe their ships are too."

"Maybe…" Carson paused, unsure if he should voice his concerns.

"What is it?" Hermione asked, turning to face him fully.

"What if we just left? Atlantis is safe sitting down here at the bottom of the ocean. She's fully powered again, and we know she can sit here safely for at least another ten thousand years."

Hermione gave him a warm smile. "That might very well be what we decide as the best course of action. Right now, I feel our priority is whatever gives the crew of the Aurora the best chance of survival. If that is to run back to Avalon and pretend the Wraith don't exist, maybe that is what we'll do."

"Aye." Carson sighed again. "I just don't fancy getting into a war with a race like the Wraith. As things stand right now, I'm not sure we could win. There are just too few of us. And we only have one proper warship."

"We aren't planning to run out and pick any fights. Tomorrow, Aurora's repairs should be finished enough for us to disconnect Vir without her losing orbit. Then we'll go and check out the status of the satellite and supply ship. Once we have all the information, we can make a proper assessment. And you, Cyla and Elizabeth will be asked to contribute."


"Of course," Hermione said, seeming taken aback at his disbelief. "This decision will affect all of us. And not just those of us here right now. The wrong decision could spark a war. The right one, and we could remain here unnoticed and see if there is a non-military way to deal with the Wraith."

"Hopefully it remains that simple," Carson said, turning to face the permanent holograms at the back of the room, showing the slow yet steady approach of the two cruisers.


Sunday, 13th August 2000.

"How's it look, Nev?" Harry asked as he operated the controls on the big chair, monitoring the state of the ship below.

"New dome is holding, though I haven't bothered triggering the array yet," Neville replied, standing on the reconstructed bridge of the Aurora. "Life support is fully operational. Navigational systems are online. Firing engines on your mark."

Harry prepared to still Vir's engines and see if the Aurora could now maintain their geostationary orbit above Atlantis for both vessels safely. They were fairly sure the engine repairs were successful, but they weren't uncoupling the ships until they were certain. He sure as hell wasn't eager to try docking them again during a planetary free-fall.

"Alright. Three, two, one, mark." Harry said, counting at a steady rate and hitting the button right on the word mark.

It was hard to tell, but thanks to Lantea's moon, he could see the ship slow slightly and begin to tip downwards into Lantea's gravity well before it began to move back into position.

"Alright!" Neville said gleefully. "Orbit maintained. Engines running within expected margins. Nice."

"Great work, mate." Harry congratulated, knowing that after adding the vulta dispensary to Atlantis, he had focused all his effort the past few days on repairing the Aurora. "We'll let them sit for a bit, but if it can maintain for the next hour, we should be good to decouple."

"Noted. I'll stay here and keep watch for now, if you need to get up, stretch your legs. Captain." He finished with a comical tone to the final word.

Harry groaned. He wasn't even able to rib Neville back as during the last few days they had rechecked the manifest against the names and ranks of all those in the stasis pods. The Aurora's captain was alive and conscious in the virtual environment the stasised crew were in. Instead, he ignored the jibe and stood, walking forwards to the edge of the dome where he could just see the edges of the much broader and longer ship tucked beneath his own.


Harry stared out the dome into space, watching as they carefully approached the satellite. While Vir heavily resembled a Lantean ship of the line, it was not actually built by that group. There was still a slim possibility that the satellite may consider it an enemy vessel and attack them.

Hermione gently corrected their approach and the satellite moved into the centre of the view, unobstructed in any way thanks to the dome simply being part of the thick metallic hull that they had made magically transparent. As such, it had no need for braces or support. Just beyond the satellite, Harry could see the planet which held it in place. Religast did not look overly welcoming, being mostly arid desert from this far out. But that was a concern for later.

"I'm getting nothing," Luna said, seated at one of the terminals by the wall with direct sensor access. "It's completely dead. Totally drained of power centuries ago. Either that or the Wraith managed to sufficiently damage the main power lines leading from the solar cells."

"Mostly likely the latter from what I read on the designs." Harry surmised. "These things charged constantly off very minimal power input. If it's dead, it's probably not getting that input anymore."

"So," Hermione said, letting the word hang heavily in the air for a moment. "Do we fix it?"

Harry glanced between the two girls, turning to see Neville seated at the weapons console. None of them had any answers for now and just shrugged. He considered the pros and cons silently.

If they repaired the satellite, it should be more than powerful enough to devastate both cruisers if they happened to exit anywhere within its range. But would that serve their goal? Ideally, they wanted the cruisers to come, find nothing and leave. They could then confirm the status quo to the rest of the Wraith, allowing them to operate in secrecy for the foreseeable future. Should the cruisers not return, it was highly likely that the Wraith would know something was wrong and send a far larger contingent.

Putting them immediately in the same situation that the Lanteans had deemed untenable and left behind by returning to Avalon.

"No." He finally said, firmly. "If we destroy them, they'll just send more. We're nowhere near ready for that. This star system needs to look exactly as they expect. We should leave it be, for now."

"You're sure?" Luna asked.

Harry nodded. "We can always come back and fix or replace it later. But for now, we can't afford to risk destroying the cruisers and proving our presence."

Hermione turned back in her seat and altered their course. It would take mere minutes to travel the remaining distance to Religast. His eyes tracked the satellite until it moved beyond his view out the left side of the dome and he wondered whether they should just scrap it once the cruisers left and build the newer design he had been working on.

"Establishing stable orbit," Hermione said and Harry looked up from his thoughts to find the planet now dominated the dome.

"Wow," Neville said from his terminal as he scanned the planet below. "Lots of miniscule life signs down there."

The CIC console lit up and a tiny yellow dot hovered over it. Neville keyed several commands and the dot grew until it filled the CIC, and yet, no more detail emerged.

"Hundreds of millions of these are down there. Some form of tiny energy creature."

Harry's eyes drifted to Luna who was looking at the tiny creature like it was Christmas.

"Once we know we're safe, we'll build you a small science ship. Then you can come back and look to your heart's content, Luna." Harry said, clueing the other two into Luna's glee. "But for now, we've got a job to do. Where is the ship?"

Hermione keyed her own terminal and the CIC went blank for a moment before the planet filled it up. The hologram quickly zoomed in on a section of the planet Harry could see through the dome and a small outline grew larger on the image. Having spent the past few days looking at all the data the Lanteans had on the Wraith, Harry instantly recognized their design architecture. But he was not yet familiar with this particular ship class, though it appeared to be reminiscent of the cruiser design.

He doubted this one would ever fly again though. Given that it was sheared in half, with one section about a dozen miles from the other.

"Ouch," Luna said simply and Harry nodded his agreement.

"Proves how effective those satellite beams are."

"Actually, I don't think that one was hit directly," Neville said, once more scanning the area in detail. "It shows signs of having been hit physically, hard. Something crashed into it and caused it to lose orbit. Probably created enough stress that the ship fractured during entry and the final impact with the planet's surface separated the two segments fully. At least judging by the markings in the soil."

"Any life signs?" Harry asked, turning to face Neville.

"One. Super faint, just like the other one had been. Now we know to correct for it, I can see them. They are asleep though."

"Beam it directly into one of the sealed cells in the brig," Harry ordered and Neville nodded, following his instruction.

They all watched as the single red dot vanished and Luna confirmed its arrival.

"Prisoner received." She said as she keyed up another hologram showing the inside of the cell.

They all looked on as the figure woke and shot to its feet before sweeping down into a crouch, looking about itself like a caged animal. Unlike the female back on Atlantis, this one had thick white dreadlocks hanging down around its face. it had the same pale green skin, but the angle of the vulta installed in the cell was only showing the back right now.

It wore some kind of chest armour that appeared to be made of thick yet flexible plates, but its upper arms were completely unencumbered. Around its waist, it wore what seemed to be an improvised leather jerkin, with a handmade skirt of leather squares, stitched to it in a pattern.

Harry turned to Neville to ask him to scan the figure only to find the boy recoiling in horror.

"What is it?" He asked.

Neville turned and Harry could see that he had paled. "That's not leather."

Harry watched the image and saw the Wraith turn and finally, he could see its face. It bore the same deep groove in either cheek starting below the eyes, which were the same amber colouring with vertical pupils. But its lips lacked the blue tinge of the female and were bared back, fully showing off the horrible sharp teeth of the monster.

"What do you mean?" Hermione asked, finally addressing Neville's statement.

"If this scan is accurate, those patches on the skirt are human flesh. Every single one of them from a different person."

They all turned back to the image in horror. Harry was beginning to understand just how bad an enemy these Wraith were. He was starting to think the references to the Wraith feeding on the humans of the galaxy were completely literal and not hyperbole.

"Stun him," Harry said finally, and Luna keyed her terminal, sending several stun blasts through the cell.

Harry watched the figure on the monitor as it growled at the stun blasts, taking two before it dropped to its knees and another four before it collapsed entirely. Luna delivered an extra five just to be certain once it was on the floor.

"I'm going to need to work on that setting if we're going to be encountering this lot on a regular basis."

"Or," Luna offered as an alternative, "We use the highest setting on the blasters and be done with it. We have a male and female prisoner now. That should be all we ever need to study."

"I'm inclined to agree," Hermione said, watching the image in disgust.

"Sure, but we can debate that later. For now, we need to get the intel out of that ship. Get the most detailed scans you can from up here first, Neville. If it's anything like the cruiser, I'd rather not spend any longer aboard than we have to." He advised and the others seemed very keen to agree.

None of them were eager to explore another one of these vessels.