Spoilers: Season 1 only
Summary: They've been here mere months and people are going missing – being abducted – by something that shouldn't even exist. Only in the Pegasus Galaxy could this happen...
A/N: Betaread by Fanwoman & fififolle. Blame for this fic lies partially on rodlox for sort of jokingly suggesting this, but really, I just couldn't resist the challenge once my brain had a hold on this bunny. ;D
It had one eye, just the one.
Somehow it didn't seem right for a thing that lacked depth perception to be so good at swooping out of the sky and plucking people off balconies and walkways. But being a flying cyclops wasn't the most ridiculous part of it. It was purple. Not a light shade of lilac or anything that you could maybe interpret as purple but literally bright purple, and yet no one could find it. They reported it flying around, flitting from behind one tower to the next and then vanishing, only to appear elsewhere a few minutes later. But it had to be hiding somewhere around Atlantis, unless – as his colleague Dr. Matthews had suggested - it was also aquatic. Either way, they were losing people, and they weren't gaining any intel on the creature – which, in his book, equalled a distinct lack of progress.
Greg wasn't the foremost expert on zoology in the city, but he was the most organised out of their ragtag bunch. He'd always been good at leading projects, especially with such tight deadlines. Since most of them had other skills which put them in other science teams, there was no zoology department, just people from a variety of different fields, with varying degrees of expertise, who helped in particular cases. There were several marine biologists like Matthews and a phylogeneticist, but there were also many people with vaguely related degrees or interests. For example, there was a biologist who also specialised in mammalogy, a woman he only knew as Lily who had a fascination with anything that had wings, and even an arch-anth guy who was knowledgeable in archaeozoology. In this case, anyone who could potentially provide insight was on the job, and they had all the resources of Atlantis at their disposal – the priority was to resolve this situation, to deal with the animal, whatever it was.
The thing had already taken Major Sheppard, Dr. McKay and a number of other scientists and military personnel, including McKay's unofficial second in charge - the notorious prankster, Zelenka. Despite the time Zelenka had turned a full load of laundry – including half the cities labcoats - pink, Greg had every intention of stopping the creature responsible for his disappearance and uncovering the fate of the scruffy Czech and the others. The number of missing and not quite yet presumed dead was getting on for a round twenty, which was a significant proportion of the expedition. The rest were scared to go out onto the piers or balconies – anywhere exposed was no-go for most people. Some risked it, but those who had tended to coincide with those who’d been taken, not that those who were left could live like this for very long. The maintenance of Atlantis was essential, and a number of vital systems relied on accessing areas that could only be reached on foot, out along the pier walkways. They could only wait so long before tending to Environmental Station 5, which was a short walk out on the east pier and down two levels from there, down through what they were resisting calling a Jeffery’s tube.
Still, it was mysterious why this was happening now, after months in the city. And where had it come from? They were on a floating city, right smack in the middle of a vast ocean. By all normal rules, cycloptic purple... dragons had to come from somewhere. Though there was the point that, by Milky Way standards, they didn't come from anywhere. What a difference the Pegasus Galaxy made in such matters. For all they knew, it could have come from any place else - in space, in time. Who knew what other experiments the Ancients had been conducting and had simply forgotten about, in the way creatures made of energy and one-eyed purple beasts tended to slip your mind when you packed your bags and high-tailed it out of your home.
Jenkins, the grunt debriefing them on the latest snatch, had suggested the Ancients had actually left because of this. Tempting as it was to believe, somehow Greg didn't think that was true. Everything in the Ancient database, as well as the hologram Beckett had found, indicated otherwise – as well as the fact you could easily fly the city away from it. Though it'd be a nice thought that, if this thing got them all, it'd get any Wraith that came looking for Atlantis, too. The visage of a grumpy, thousands-of-years-old Wraith being taken by something looking quite that ridiculous was amazingly amusing, but much less so when you remembered the thing would probably get you first.
Nobody knew what it was doing with the people it had taken. The obvious conclusion would have been they were food, but no one was in the mood for that kind of obviousness. You could reason that, because it was unusual in every way imaginable—from its colour to its apparent ability to vanish— it was perhaps also unusual enough to not want prey for nourishment. It was an assumption that many were clinging too as mildly comforting, despite that it was as giant and preposterous a leap of logic as the existence of the thing itself.
But no theories, wild or practical, could have prepared him for learning the truth. He couldn’t help but laugh when he saw them all. When he came back to his senses, he didn't dare ask where the purple goo had come from. It made them look a lot like the dragon - almost like little baby dragons, from a distance. As the creature had carried him to its “nest,” the sight of the slithering purple forms had terrified him until he’d realised what they actually were. He'd also noticed why they hadn't been able to locate the dragon half the time. It didn't disappear into thin air; it’d just kept on flying. The scales on its back had something like cloaking capabilities, a fact that hadn't been missed by anyone else who'd been abducted. McKay had chided him for gaping at it and had gone on to theorize that it'd been an object of study leading to the jumper cloaking. Unlikely as it sounded to his ears - and what was he to know, he was only a biologist - he wasn’t so foolish as to disagree with a tetchy McKay, least of all one who’d been stuck up on the top of a remote tower for two and a half days.
He was going to presume that, despite the apparent egos of McKay and Sheppard, they weren't actually that vain, because no one had a mirror on them. As it turned out, a mirror, plus a couple of hours twiddling their thumbs waiting, was all it took to for them to be rescued. After that, the problem of the dragon was easily solved with a little fake bait and some well coordinated Marines equipped with very durable Athosian netting.
Matthews and the others managed to work out the rest of the mystery. Add a 10,000 year-old stray egg of a very big, tough but relatively harmless species of reptile to a deactivated stasis chamber, and you’ve got a Pegasus “dragon,” though notably not a fully grown one. Despite being immature, the dragon was still large enough to, in its confusion and frustration as the Lantian summer began to approximate the end of its mating season, carry off a human…or twelve.
Relocating the aptly named Puff – classified as a member, perhaps the last, of the species Draco Pythonus Watchus - was a very serious matter, very serious indeed. The same could not be said of the photos surreptitiously obtained of the abductees in all their goo-covered glory, photos from which he was conspicuously absent but Zelenka was rather prominently placed.
You see, the pink labcoats he could forgive, but the sneaky Czech had been shuffling Kavanagh off onto the interdepartmental projects, that tended to include him as the token biologist, for months now. Every hour, it seemed he'd get the call of “Dr. Lambert?” followed by the screech of “Dr Lambert!” and then, once he gave in and paid attention, the condescending spiel that started off with “Might I have small word with you about...” It wasn't that Kavanagh was wrong, but he clearly hated the tasks he was given and was keen to tackle something more challenging in his own department, which left him dissatisfied and nitpicking on whatever details he could find on their project. When questioned about Kavanagh's assignments, Zelenka had shrugged it off as a perk of the delegation rights McKay had shirked onto him.
Everyone needed some less than secret embarrassing moments, on show to the world, or at least what was their world, their home now. Greg considered the photos a little “perk” of his part in the rescue effort. They really did look rather cute, mutinous glares and all, as they stood next to Puff - who was very accepting of the rescue team; she seemed to like the extra people - and you could just about catch the barely repressed smiles on the medics' faces as they checked the abductees over before transferring them to the hovering jumper. McKay and Sheppard would kill those responsible when they found out, but it would be worth it for the revenge on Zelenka.