Disclaimer: No infringement intended, I own nothing
Summary: It was a whole, "he said, he said," thing
Talgan, the Village First's day had already been hot, sweaty and unpleasant when the Ring of the Ancestors activated and spat out a group of strangers. One of them immediately started to complain loudly about the heat, "It must be 40 degrees, Sheppard! Celsius, you moron!" the sunlight, "Clearly this whole planet is just a happy case of melanoma waiting to happen!" the dirt, "I have dust allergies, as you well know!" At that point Talgan sighed and wished he had joined his wife on her journey to visit her sister in one of the villages across the dry plain.
He leaned over, spat grumpily into the dust at his feet and stood, whistling for the nearby guard to gather and watching the newcomers warily as he waited. He noted that they were watching him back equally warily, and wondered what they had in mind; that they just showed up unexpectedly, not having sent a liaison previously to set up a meeting, as was the custom.
Well, they certainly seemed well armed, practically bristling with weapons. Talgan recognized them as similar to the rifles the cursed Genii had used against his village when Talgan's people had refused to cower before them. His warriors now possessed several of the rifles, taken from fallen Genii soldiers during the battle. A number of his gathered guard carried them instead of the swords the rest held at the ready. He cast a weary eye on Losin, his youngest son, who held one of the Genii rifles with a smug air. Talgan suspected that Losin had used his position as son of the First to acquire the weapon, since he certainly wasn't skilled in its use.
As his group approached the strangers, the male in the front, as well as the large male and the female in the back, drew more tightly together, encircling the loud one in the middle and casting distrustful gazes between Talgan and the armed guard. Clearly they recognized the similarities between their own weapons and the Genii rifles the village guard carried. Or perhaps they were connected to the thrice-damned Genii. Talgan leaned over, catching the eye of the dark-haired man in front just in case, and spat again onto the ground to remove the foul taste the mere thought of those warmongers caused. The man stiffened and set his hands more carefully on his weapon with a disapproving look on his face. The large man and the female followed his example.
Talgan and his village guard stopped, weapons held ready. "Greetings, strangers. I am Talgan, the village First. Who are you who come upon us, well armed and without warning?" The loud one rummaged through his pack and brought out an item that was completely unfamiliar to Talgan and began waving it around. The village guard raised their swords and rifles slightly, tense in the face of a possible unknown weapon.
"I am Colonel John Sheppard, of Atlantis, This is Doctor Rodney McKay, Specialist Ronon Dex, and Negotiator Teyla Emmagen. We are peaceful travelers hoping to find trade opportunities." John uneasily eyed the ready stance of the villagers and hissed, from the corner of his mouth, "Rodney, put that away!"
"But Colonel, there are readings for a tremendous energy source," Dr. Rodney McKay looked up from his device and pointed it at the temple directly behind Losin. "Right there!"
There was a shuffle of weapons, a moment of confusion and suddenly a gunshot rang out, bringing every weapon in each group to bear on someone. Losin cried out, "Oh! Oh! My foot! I've been shot! He shot me, that one shot me!" He pointed at Colonel Sheppard. Before Sheppard could say a word, Losin's best friend, Ceri, pointed his Genii rifle at John and pulled the trigger.
Colonel John Sheppard's weapon clattered to the ground and he clutched at his shoulder. "Stand down!" He shouted, as his team prepared to return fire. "No more shooting! This is a mistake, I haven't shot anyone!"
Sheppard and his team were immediately surrounded and disarmed.
"He lies!" cried Losin. "It was obviously him who shot me!"
"No," said John Sheppard again. "I never fired my weapon."
Talgan raised his hand for silence. "Lock them up."
"After you finish with Losin, I want you to go check on Colonel John Sheppard of Atlantis, see if you can do anything for him. He must be in great pain," Talgan said to the Healer, who was wrapping Losin's foot.
"Father!" Losin wailed. "How can you even think of offering aid to the man who shot me?" He turned and screeched at the Healer, flinching dramatically. "Ow! Must you be so rough and careless?"
"I am not yet convinced it was he who shot you. Atal will be helping me investigate."
At the sound of his name, Atal stood from leaning on the doorjamb and walked over to speak to the Healer. "Tell me about the wound, please."
The Healer stood, packing his supplies. "It's a clear-through shot, straight from the top of the foot, completely through and out the sole."
Atal crossed his arms and frowned. "Straight through from the top?"
"Yes," the Healer said. "He was lucky it missed any bones. He will suffer no long-term impairment."
Talgan sighed and motioned to Atal. "Come with me."
"So to clarify," Atal, the weapons expert said, rubbing an eyebrow with a frown, "Losin and Ceri swear that Colonel John Sheppard of Atlantis shot Losin in the foot, while John Sheppard claims he never fired his rifle. Is that the situation?"
"Yes, that's it. I would like to discover the truth while we still have the Atlanteans. We cannot keep them long, as their people are clearly better armed than we are. We cannot afford a war." Talgan swore silently. It seemed that whenever something went wrong, Losin was always nearby. And wherever you found Losin, you found Ceri. It had been this way since the two were striplings. "What do you suggest?"
Moments later Talgan was watching Atal carefully examine the Atlantean rifles. He scrutinized them while they were on the table at first, gently touching here and there, poking a bit. Talgan heard a click, and a rectangular shape separated from the rifle. Atal held it up to him.
"It appears to be the bullet chamber," he said. "I wonder how many it is meant to hold?"
He removed the chambers from each of the rifles and started counting.
"How many do they each contain right now?" Talgan asked, intrigued.
Atal finished counting and said, "Gods, fifty each. Good weapons." He lifted a rifle and sniffed at the breech, and turned it vertical and sniffed at the tip of the barrel with a look of deep concentration on his face. Then he licked at the tip, lapping the end of the barrel with his whole tongue, drawing it back into his mouth and swirling it around. His brows drew together but he said nothing. Laying that rifle back down he repeated the process on the other three, serious-faced and thoughtful.
"I want to examine both Ceri's and Losin's rifles as well. We should go collect them before they are cleaned."
Talgan was convinced that Atal was already following up on certain suspicions, but refrained from asking him yet, instead following him to the village guard quarters.
"Why do you need our rifles?"Losin demanded, Ceri at his side. Both were frowning deeply and held their rifles protectively. "There is no need for you to examine my weapon. It was the Atlantean soldier who shot me. And Ceri who shot him. Ceri saw him shoot me."
"I did," responded Ceri, right on cue.
"What did you see?" asked Atal, "Specifically."
"I… I saw… the Atlantean in the middle was shouting and pointing his weapon at Losin. Then the soldier also pointed his rifle and shot him," Ceri said.
"The soldier pointed his rifle at Losin's foot?" Atal asked, raising an eyebrow skeptically.
"Yes!" Ceri raised his chin defiantly.
"Why would any soldier purposefully shoot an enemy in the foot?" asked Atal.
"They are strangers. Who knows why they do anything?"
"That is what were are determined to find out," said Atal. "Now, hand the rifles over immediately."
Talgan stepped in with authority. "Do as he says, both of you."
They took the Genii rifles from the grumbling young men and went back to Atal's house, where he performed the sniffing and licking process on them, grimacing as he did so. Then he counted the bullets in the bullet chambers. "Hmm."
"You have discovered something?" asked Talgan.
"Both of these weapons have been fired. According to the boys' story, only Ceri fired a shot." He paused thoughtfully, staring out the window toward the Ring of the Ancestors. "Come with me a moment."
Talgan watched as Atal moved around the area before the Ring where the village guard had stood confronting the strangers. Often he would bend down and closely examine the ground at his feet. At one point he removed his knife from it's sheath on his belt and dug at the ground, picking something up and holding it to the light.
"What is it?" asked Talgan.
"One of our own bullets," replied Atal. "This is where Losin was standing."
"Ah." Talgan stroked his chin wisely. Atal raised an eyebrow at him and smirked. "So, you're saying what, exactly?"
"Your son," Atal started, with a wide grin, "shot himself in the foot." His grin disappeared. "And then his genius friend Ceri shot Colonel John Sheppard to cover for him. This is bad. Reparations will have to be made."
"You are sure?" Talgan rubbed his face with frustration.
"I am," Atal confirmed. "None of the Atlantean weapons have been fired. All of their bullet chambers hold the same number of bullets. Both Ceri's and Losin's rifles have been fired, and both are missing one bullet from their chambers. A bullet from one of the Genii rifles was buried in the dirt where Losin was standing, surrounded by blood. The angle of Losin's wound was straight up and down, according to the Healer, not an angle Colonel John Sheppard could have met from his position. And both were trying to keep me from examining their weapons. I am forced to conclude that they were hiding something."
Talgan sighed. "It does seem rather indisputable."
"Yes." Atal slapped Talgan on the shoulder genially. "Now we must go confront the boys, release the Atlanteans, and make amends."
The Atlanteans stood in front of the Ring of the Ancestors, with the villagers gathered, guard and all. Losin stood before Colonel John Sheppard, holding his rifle and frowning into the dirt.
"And so, to make amends for the injury done you, and my own…" he stumbled to a halt and looked sideways at his father. Talgan nodded grimly at him to continue. "my own false claims against you, I offer reparations in the form of my most valued possession. I took it myself from a fallen Genii soldier when they came to make war on us, " he said, raising his head proudly.
His father coughed into his hand and shook his head fiercely.
Losin's face crumpled and he sighed. "All right, all right, I won it in a rakla game. But it is still my most valued possession and I wish… wish you to receive it in apology."
Colonel John Sheppard, pale and tired looking, reached out his uninjured arm and received the weapon with a forced smile and said, "Thanks, no hard feelings."
"What?" squawked Doctor Rodney McKay. "Are you insane? No hard feelings? How can you ow!"
Negotiator Teyla Emmagen smiled serenely.
Specialist Ronon Dex just looked bored.
As the group turned to go, Talgan called out, "Colonel John Sheppard! If there are truly no hard feelings, perhaps we may try another day to discuss trade. Feel free to send a liaison to set up a meeting, as is our custom."
Doctor Rodney McKay pressed the keys on the Plinth of Direction and the Ring whooshed to life, Colonel John Sheppard waved goodbye and replied, "Sure! We'll do that!"
And with that, they disappeared through the Ring.
Talgan walked over to clap his son on the shoulder with a smirk. "Well, boy, now I believe you have some cleaning to do?"
Losin grumbled under his breath and limped after his father.
Talgan prayed to his gods for the end of adolescence to come soon.